AlterNet.org: Thom Hartmann http://www.alternet.org/authors/thom-hartmann en I'm Sick of the So-Called 'News' on TV http://www.alternet.org/media/im-sick-so-called-news-tv <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It&#039;s nothing but pure infotainment.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_20078656.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>I'm sick of the so-called "news" in this country.</p><p>If you turn on MSNBC or CNN any morning, all you'll hear is the hosts and guests arguing about the latest absurd thing that Donald Trump has said.</p><p>On Monday, Trump laid out his economic plan, but the media ignored the details and the fact that his plan is Voodoo Economics 2.0, and they instead focused on the fact that he called Hillary Clinton unfit to serve as president.</p><p>On Tuesday, the networks focused on the fact that dozens of establishment Republicans and national security advisers had signed a letter calling Trump dangerous, but, again, never mentioned issues, just personality.</p><p>By Wednesday, Trump had broken new ground by apparently encouraging "2nd amendment people" to assassinate Hillary Clinton or her Supreme Court nominees.</p><p>And today, if you were to turn on any of the 24-hour stations you'd know that Trump declared last night that Obama literally founded ISIS.</p><p>Honestly, it doesn't matter what day of the week or what time of day a person tunes into the 24-hour news networks, he or she can always find out the latest vapid and boorish insult that's spewed from Trump's lips.</p><p>The problem is… it isn't news!</p><p>It's nothing but pure infotainment.</p><p>The corporate commercial networks are much, much happier presenting personal drama in the form of packaged infotainment and faux outrage rather than any sort of programming in the public interest.</p><p>This isn't just me saying this either, I've put this challenge to my radio listeners for the past several weeks: If any listener or reader can find a moment where CNN or MSNBC has hosted a real substantive policy discussion on any significant issue, we'll reward that listener or reader with a copy of one of my books of their choosing.</p><p>So, how many books have we given away?</p><p>Zero, zilch, none.</p><p>It's not because the candidates aren't saying things that are worth serious discussion, it's because the so-called "news" refuses to cover those things.</p><p>On Monday for instance, Trump basically presented Paul Ryan's House Republican economic plan as his own, but Trump is still claiming that he wants to protect Social Security and Medicare, even though the Republican party has been openlly working for decades to gut both programs.</p><p>These are important issues that Americans care about, but you haven't heard any host on the 24-hour news networks confront a Trump supporter about how the GOP and Trump at least appear to disagree on the issues of Social Security or Medicare.</p><p>When Hillary Clinton gives speeches, it's one policy position after another, and she lays out her visions with a substantial amount of detail.</p><p>But after the speech is over and it's time for CNN and MSNBC to discuss it, you don't hear soundbites about rebuilding our roads, water and sewage systems on MSNBC or CNN.</p><p>No, despite the fact that average Americans care about rebuilding our roads and water systems, it's a relatively "boring" topic, so you're much more likely to hear this <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2016/08/08/hillary_clinton_dont_let_a_friend_vote_trump.html&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1471031844522000&amp;usg=AFQjCNHUd8Uzc12hxLe1Fg4KoRzXBzXN9g" href="http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2016/08/08/hillary_clinton_dont_let_a_friend_vote_trump.html" target="_blank">soundbite</a>.</p><p>The corporate media drives viewership and profits by airing personal drama over public policy, and the end result is that viewers turn off the TV at the end of the day as ill-informed as they were when they tuned in.</p><p>There's no silver bullet for this problem, because this crisis in our media is the result of more than 40 years of conservative policies that have radically altered our news media.</p><p>One problem is that corporate commercial broadcasters don't have any reason to talk in-depth about real issues, their only aim is to get more viewers so that they can get more advertisers, CBS chief <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://www.youtube.com/watch?v%3DcwIUv8wvf6c&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1471031844522000&amp;usg=AFQjCNHnFrzUiUiiIj60FZxepUAdAkRIVQ" href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwIUv8wvf6c" target="_blank">Les Moonves</a> made that unsettlingly clear during the primaries last year.</p><p>Another problem is that groups like Northrop Grumman, the American Petroleum Institute and the Pete Peterson Foundation buy the ad spots, so networks don't want to talk about reining in the military industrial complex, or the realities of human-made climate change, or about the popularity and success of Social Security that Peterson wants to privatize to his buddies on Wall Street.</p><p>Likewise, anti-union telecom giants like Comcast and Verizon don't just own the broadband infrastructure, Comcast actually owns MSNBC! So you're unlikely to hear anything of substance about any real labor issues, or net neutrality, or about the Trans-Pacific Partnership which they and/or their trade groups and lobbyists helped negotiate.</p><p>Step one to fixing this problem is to break up the telecom and media monopolies that rapidly formed after Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, and we need to demand that they require broadcasters to cover issues fairly and in the public interest, to provide real news.</p><p>It's reached the point where the stranglehold that multinational corporations have over our media is actually harming our ability to have a functioning democratic republic.</p><p>And that requires us all to wake up and demand some real changes to our media landscape.</p> Fri, 12 Aug 2016 08:19:00 -0700 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1061796 at http://www.alternet.org Media Media news msnbc donald trump cnn hillary clinton How One GMO Nearly Took Down the Planet http://www.alternet.org/food/how-one-gmo-nearly-took-down-planet <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">New law deals major blow to GMO labeling.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_146741648.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>On July 29, President Obama signed bill S.764 into law, dealing a major blow to the movement to require GMO labeling. The new law, which food safety groups call the "Deny Americans the Right to Know" (DARK) Act, has at least three key parts that undermine Vermont's popular GMO labeling bill and make it nearly impossible for Americans to know what's in their food.</p><p>The law claims to set a federal labeling standard by requiring food producers to include either a QR barcode that can be scanned with a phone, or a 1-800 number that consumers can call to find out whether a product contains genetically modified ingredients.</p><p>But according to the Institute for Responsible Technology, this bill doesn't require most processed foods to have a label, defines genetic engineering so narrowly most GMOs on the market don't qualify, and gives the USDA two more years to come up with "additional criteria"—also known as "loopholes."</p><p>This is disappointing for American consumers who honestly just want to know what their food contains, but the issue surrounding GMOs isn't just about what these companies are putting into our food and stocking our stores with. What's potentially more devastating for the planet is that genetically modified organisms developed by companies like Monsanto and DuPont can escape into our ecosystems and potentially wreak havoc before they are even tested or approved as safe.</p><p>That's not wild-eyed conspiracy theory or speculation; it's a matter of fact.</p><p>The same day Obama signed the DARK Act, the U.S. Department of Agriculture confirmed that a farmer found 22 experimental and unapproved wheat plants in one of his fields that had been genetically modified by Monsanto. The reactions to the finding have been swift, despite being ignored by the mainstream media.</p><p>Federal and state investigators announced that they are looking into the matter of how the unapproved mutant wheat found its way to a field that hasn't been planted since 2015. </p><p>South Korea, the fifth-largest market for U.S. wheat, announced in response that it will be stepping up quarantine measures for milling and feed wheat shipments from the U.S. in response.</p><p>Monsanto told the Associated Press these wheat plants are a type that was evaluated in limited field trials in the Pacific Northwest from 1998 to 2001, but the variety was never approved.</p><p>Nonetheless, this is the third time in as many years that varieties of Monsanto's GMO Roundup-ready wheat has cropped up in the area. In two of those cases, federal officials have no idea how the wheat got into the field or where else it might have spread to.</p><p>All we do know is that the USDA is testing the farmer's other fields to see if the wheat is growing anywhere else, and that the FDA has stated that there is no evidence that the wheat has entered the market. Beyond that, we really don't know how this Roundup-ready wheat will impact local ecosystems, whether it will wipe out non-GMO wheat, or whether it could bio-accumulate in the food chain and eventually have an impact on top predators, like humans.</p><p>That should set off some alarm bells, because we've dodged a similar bullet before with <em>Klebsiella planticola</em>, a soil bacteria that aggressively grows on plants' roots.</p><p>In the early 1990s, a European genetic engineering company was preparing to field test its genetically modified version of <em>Klebsiella planticola</em>, which it had tested in the lab and presumed to be safe. But if it weren't for the work of a team of independent scientists led by Elaine Ingham, that company could have literally killed every terrestrial plant on the planet.</p><p>The company's genetic engineers were trying to solve a simple problem faced by farmers all over the world: how to deal with crop residues like leftover corn and wheat stalks after harvest without burning fields and creating thick and dangerous smoke. They figured that they could take a gene that leads to alcohol production from yeast and insert it into the bacteria <em>Klebsiella planticola</em>.</p><p>In the end, the scientists hoped that this simple modification could do three things at once: decompose the plant material without burning it, produce alcohol that could be used for gasoline or cooking, and create a sludge byproduct that would be rich in nitrogen, phosphorous, sulfur, magnesium and calcium to be used as fertilizer. As Dr. Ingham described it, it would be a win-win-win situation.</p><p>But when Ingham and her team tested the impact the sludge would have on the ecological balance and the agricultural soil when they applied it as fertilizer, they found that wheat grown in the sludge died after about week. And as Ingham pointed out in a presentation in 1998, by modifying <em>Klebsiella planticola</em>, they fundamentally changed what it does in the soil:</p><blockquote><p>"The parent bacterium makes a slime layer that helps it stick to the plant's roots. The engineered bacterium makes about 17 parts per million alcohol. What is the level of alcohol that is toxic to roots? About one part per million. The engineered bacterium makes the plants drunk, and kills them."</p></blockquote><p><em>Klebsiella planticola</em> is found in the root systems of every terrestrial plant on Earth, so if the modified bacterium were released into the wild, it would threaten every single terrestrial plant on the planet.</p><p>The story of <em>Klebsiella planticola</em> is a cautionary tale: part of why there is such staunch opposition to GMO products is that we really don't know what the long-lasting impacts on our planet's ecological balance could be. Meanwhile, the companies that are developing GMOs care more about making money by getting their products to market—and lobbying Congress to help them hide their products in plain sight—than they do about the safety of consumers or the planet.</p><p>We need to overturn the DARK Act and implement clear nationwide GMO labeling standards that follow Vermont's, which were struck down by the DARK Act. And beyond that, we need to implement the precautionary principle here in the United States, so that companies like Monsanto and DuPont have to prove that their products are safe <em>before</em> they expose consumers and our natural ecosystems to their potentially highly toxic products.</p> Fri, 05 Aug 2016 09:10:00 -0700 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1061278 at http://www.alternet.org Food Environment Food gmos food safety GMO labeling food environment s.764 Are Trump Voters Aware That Mike Pence Might Be Running the Show? http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/are-trump-voters-aware-mike-pence-might-be-running-show <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Reports note Pence will be in charge of domestic and foreign policy.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/5589792852_8285f799b5_z.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>When he officially accepts the 2016 Republican nomination for president Thursday night, Donald Trump will do so as a different kind of Republican.</p><p>Or so the thinking goes.</p><p>A Trump presidency would be just like every other Republican presidency, arguably even worse.</p><p>We now know this for fact.</p><p>According to a story out today in the New York Times Magazine, when Donald Trump was looking for a running mate, he initially offered the job to one of his former opponents, Ohio Governor John Kasich.</p><p>And while that's interesting enough on its own, what's even more interesting is the offer the Trump campaign made to try to convince Kasich to join the ticket.</p><p>According to the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/20/magazine/how-donald-trump-picked-his-running-mate.html?_r=0" target="_blank">New York Times</a>, when Donald Trump, Jr. contacted a Kasich advisor about the running mate job, he told that adviser that his father wanted to make Kasich the "most powerful vice president in history."</p><p>What happened next reveals a lot about the real Donald Trump.</p><p>When Kasich's adviser asked how this would be the case Donald Jr. explained that his father's vice president would be in charge of domestic and foreign policy.</p><p>Then what, the adviser asked, would Trump be in charge of?</p><p>"Making America great again" was the casual reply.</p><p>Now, we have no explicit confirmation of this, but everything in the Times' report suggests that Trump made this exact same offer to Mike Pence before making him his running mate.</p><p>And if that's true, it reveals two very important things.</p><p>The first thing it reveals is Trump's management style. Like a lot of billionaire corporate executives, Trump is a delegator, which is fine for the business world, but poses some big problems for the presidency, a job that requires attention to detail and around-the-clock engagement.</p><p>So that's the first thing this Times story reveals. The second thing it reveals is a much bigger deal.</p><p>If Donald Trump really did offer Mike Pence complete control over domestic and foreign policy in return for serving his running mate, then that means that Donald Trump's entire campaign is a sham.</p><p>Unlike Donald Trump (or at least 2016 presidential campaign edition of Donald Trump), Mike Pence is a rock-solid, down-the-line all-for-the-billionaires-and-corporations Republican.</p><p>Pence voted for and supported the Iraq War.</p><p>Pence supports the Trans-Pacific Partnership, NAFTA, CAFTA, and all the rest of the so-called free trade agreements that have run the American middle-class into the ground.</p><p>Pence supports slashing Social Security, and Medicare, hates unions, and wants to cut taxes for the rich, and on and on.</p><p>So if Donald Trump really did offer Mike Pence complete control over domestic and foreign policy in exchange for being his running mate, then that means that a Trump presidency would really just be a Pence presidency.</p><p>In other words, if you're thinking of voting for Trump because you hate the TPP and NAFTA and want to bring the jobs home, what you're actually going to get is Mike Pence, who loves the TPP and NAFTA.</p><p>If you're thinking of voting for Trump because you're sick of us wasting all that blood and treasure in the Middle East, what you're actually going to get is Mike Pence, who was one of the biggest Iraq War boosters around.</p><p>If you're thinking of voting for Trump because you think he's going to protect Social Security, what you're actually going to get is Mike Pence, who's just another Republican who wants to throw granny off the cliff.</p><p>You get the idea.</p><p>Of course, the fact that his campaign is such a blatant scam doesn't matter one bit to Donald Trump.</p><p>He doesn't care about what Pence will do to the middle class, he doesn't care what Pence will do to the nation, and he certainly doesn't care what Pence will do to you and me.</p><p>All Trump cares about is inflating his personal brand, and getting elected president is the best way to do that.</p><p>But, just because Trump doesn't care, doesn't mean Republican voters shouldn't.</p><p>They should be outraged that their candidate is pulling a fast one on them.</p><p>Unfortunately, the media is so busy covering the Trump campaign like a reality show that it hasn't bothered pointing any of this out.</p><p>Hopefully they do before it's too late, because the last thing this country needs is another right-wing Republican president.</p> Fri, 22 Jul 2016 08:28:00 -0700 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1060612 at http://www.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 2016 elections donald trump mike pence gop Thanks to the NRA and Their Lackeys in Congress, It Is Illegal to Study Gun Violence http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/what-nra-doesnt-want-you-know <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It is illegal for the Federal Center for Disease Control and Prevention to study connection between gun ownership and police violence. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/6911364283_a4543e505e_z.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>As Black Lives Matter protests continue across the nation, a new study is complicating the debate around police violence.</p><p>The study, which comes out of Harvard, took data from a number of police departments across the country and looked at how different groups of people are treated by law enforcement.</p><p>As expected, the study found that police officers are more likely to use force when dealing with black people than they are when dealing with white people.</p><p>For example, police are 18 percent <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/12/upshot/surprising-new-evidence-shows-bias-in-police-use-of-force-but-not-in-shootings.html?_r=0" target="_blank">more likely</a> to push black people against a wall, 16 percent more likely to put them in handcuffs, 19 percent more likely to draw their weapons, and so on.</p><p>These statistics are depressing for sure, but not really all that surprising given the reality of systemic racism in this country.</p><p>But what is surprising is what this study found about police officers use of lethal force, i.e. when they kill people. Contrary to what you'd expect, it found that police are just as likely to kill white people as they are black people.</p><p>Predictably, the right-wing media has jumped on this as proof—<em>proof</em>—that the Black Lives Matter movement is lying. For example, the Drudge Report linked to a New York Times story about the Harvard study <a href="http://www.drudgereport.com/" target="_blank">with a headline</a> that read, "STUDY: NO RACIAL BIAS in police shootings..."</p><p>But is this study really all that definitive?</p><p>No, it's not.</p><p>The problem with the Harvard study is that it relies on data from just a handful of different police departments, most of which are located in big cities like Houston, Dallas and Los Angeles. This isn't a bad idea on its own. After all, the bigger a city is, the more representative it is of the population as a whole. But in the context of studying police violence, relying on data from just a few big cities isn't the best idea.</p><p>If there's one thing we've learned over the past few years, it's that some of the worst police violence occurs in smaller cities like Ferguson, Missouri or Baton Rouge, Louisiana. A truly accurate analysis of police use of force should therefore include data from these smaller cities, not just the big cities that are almost always better trained and better equipped than their local counterparts.</p><p>And that raises the question—why didn't the author of the Harvard study use better data? Well, it's probably not because he was trying to make it seem like there's no racial bias in police violence. It's because there's not really any good police violence data out there.</p><p>Even after the reforms the FBI announced back in December, reporting of police violence to the federal government is still completely voluntary. Until reporting by police departments of their officers' use of force is compulsory and countrywide, we're never going to get an accurate picture of what's going on.</p><p>But even if reporting police violence data were compulsory, there'd still be big obstacles to using that data in any sensible way. That's because thanks to Republicans and the National Rifle Association, it's been illegal for more than 20 years for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct any research on gun violence.</p><p>That's right—illegal!</p><p>This ban began back in the 1990s after the CDC published some good, solid research into gun violence. One of the first studies they did found a clear relationship between increases in gun ownership and increased homicide rates.</p><p>The NRA didn't like where this was going for obvious reasons, so it started pushing its bought-and-paid-for shills in Congress to do something about those pesky scientists at the CDC. The NRA got its wish in 1996 when Republican Congressman Jay Dickey introduced what's now known as the Dickey Amendment.</p><p>It was a policy rider attached to a spending bill and it stated that, "None of the funds available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control."</p><p>Because it's so broadly worded, the Dickey Amendment has had a chilling effect on gun research at the federal level.</p><p>No one wants to go to jail for doing their job, and CDC researchers live in fear that they'll become the next Lois Lerner, dragged in front of a congressional kangaroo court and forced to testify for hours on end.</p><p>Tragically, we really need the information from good studies about police violence—but the Dickey Amendment has prevented them from being done.</p><p>Therefore, we don't know what kind of connections there are between gun ownership and police violence, connections we should have known about years ago but haven't because of the gun industry's stranglehold over public policy.</p><p>The NRA, of course, couldn't be happier with this situation. But this is just absurd. Even Jay Dickey thinks so. He's now come out against his own amendment and thinks it should be repealed.</p><p>He's right.</p> Thu, 14 Jul 2016 07:19:00 -0700 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1060047 at http://www.alternet.org Civil Liberties Activism Civil Liberties nra guns gun control gun violence black lives matter How the Corporate Food Industry Destroys Democracy http://www.alternet.org/food/how-corporate-food-industry-destroys-democracy <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Vermont implemented a law to label goods containing genetically engineered ingredients, and it&#039;s facing full-out attack from Monsanto.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/8777103184_11d7476b8e_z.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-c2b8ffe4-bcc3-9d89-2d5c-fae64f3ad149">On July 1, Vermont implemented a law requiring disclosure labels on all food products that contain genetically engineered ingredients, also known as genetically modified organisms or GMOs.</p><p dir="ltr">Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch, <a href="http://www.foodconsumer.org/newsite/Politics/Politics/vermont_legislation_goes_into_effect_0701160745.html" target="_blank">hailed</a> the law as "the first law enacted in the US that would provide clear labels identifying food made with genetically engineered ingredients. Indeed, stores across the country are already stocking food with clear on-package labels thanks to the Vermont law, because it's much easier for a company to provide GMO labels on all of the products in its supply chain than just the ones going to one state."</p><p dir="ltr">What that means is that the Vermont labeling law is changing the landscape of our grocery stores, and making it easier than ever to know which products contain GMOs.</p><p dir="ltr">And less than a week later after that law went into effect, it is under attack. Monsanto and its bought-and-paid-for toadies in Congress are pushing legislation to override Vermont's law. Democrats who oppose this effort call the Stabenow/Roberts legislation the "Deny Americans the Right to Know" Act, or DARK Act.</p><p dir="ltr">This isn't the first time that a DARK Act has been brought forward in the Senate, and one version of the bill was already shot down earlier this year. The most recent version of the bill was brought forward by Michigan Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Kansas Republican Sen. Pat Roberts, both recipients of substantial contributions from Big Agriculture. Stabenow has received more than $600,000 in campaign contributions since 2011 from the Crop Production and Basic Processing Industry, and Pat Roberts has received more than $600,000 from the Agricultural Services and Products industry.</p><p dir="ltr">When Senator Stabenow unveiled the industry-friendly legislation, she boasted that, "For the first time ever, consumers will have a national, mandatory label for food products that contain genetically modified ingredients." Which sounds great, and it would be great, if it were true.</p><p dir="ltr">But the fact is, the DARK Act would set up a system of voluntary labeling that would overturn Vermont's labeling law and replace it with a law that's riddled with so many loopholes and exemptions that it would only apply to very few products, and there's no enforcement mechanism and no penalties or consequences of any kind for defying the bill. It also allows for labeling GMO-containing foods to be "labeled" with a QR code, those black squares that can only be read by your smartphone or computer.  That let's manufacturers say, "We labeled it!" but prevents all but the most tech-savvy consumers from figuring out what the code means.</p><p dir="ltr">The Vermont labeling law, by the way, isn't a law that just somehow managed to slip through Vermont's legislature; the state legislature spent two years debating it, held more than 50 committee hearings and heard testimony from more 130 representatives before passing the bill in 2010.</p><p dir="ltr">Monsanto is pushing its puppets to pass the DARK Act quickly this week, effectively killing Vermont's labeling law without a single hearing on the issue of labeling foods or seeds.</p><p dir="ltr">Despite the fact that nine of out of 10 Americans support laws requiring clear GMO labeling, members on both sides of the aisle in Congress would rather pass legislation to help agricultural giants like Monsanto pad their bottom lines instead of passing a law that a majority of Americans actually support.</p><p dir="ltr">And while conservatives normally profess to hate federal overreach and profess to love state's rights, there are bought-off politicians in both political parties pushing to pass the DARK Act and overturn Vermont's labeling law.</p><p dir="ltr">Opponents of GMO labeling have, in the past, said that the costs to clearly label products would require "expensive new packaging," but the DARK Act gives lie to that; this labeling fight is clearly about Monsanto and other agricultural giants making sure that consumers don't know what's in their food.</p><p dir="ltr">This law that Monsanto's puppets in Congress are pushing would cost companies roughly the same as the Vermont labeling law, because it would also require new labeling. But instead of having a clear label, the new packaging would allow a QR code to scan or a toll-free number to call to find out whether a certain product contains GMOs. It won't save the companies any packaging money at all, but it would make it really, really hard for shoppers to find out whether or not a product contains GMOs.</p><p dir="ltr">If our democracy actually worked, this bill never would have seen the light of day, because people overwhelmingly want to know what's in their food and support GMO labeling. But our democracy doesn't work, because our lawmakers are bought and paid for by special interests like Monsanto.</p><p dir="ltr">If we want our lawmakers to pass popular laws that actually work, we need to get money out of politics, we need to overturn <em>Citizens United</em> and we need to amend the Constitution to make it clear that political bribes aren't free speech and corporations aren't persons.</p><p><em>Call the offices of Senators Roberts and Stabenow to let them know what you think about actual, clear GMO labeling and then check out <a href="http://movetoamend.org/" target="_blank">MoveToAmend.org</a> for more about the campaign to get money out of politics.</em></p><p><em>This article was first published on <a href="http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/36702-how-the-corporate-food-industry-destroys-democracy#14678635156271&amp;action=collapse_widget&amp;id=0&amp;data=">Truthout</a>.</em></p> Thu, 07 Jul 2016 09:00:00 -0700 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1059694 at http://www.alternet.org Food Activism Environment Food News & Politics Take Action monsanto gmo label food vermont The Weaponization of Hate http://www.alternet.org/activism/after-orlando-silence-not-option <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">History is filled with the consequences of silence and passivity.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/27358803690_0fe0a5cc7c_z.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>This is a particularly interesting week to be traveling across the French countryside, as news fills the papers and the airwaves of another assault weapon-of-war used in another mass shooting done by another frightened—and thus hate-filled—American.</p><p>The Europeans know well the wages of hate and fear. And it goes way back into the dim mists of history, well before the era of the names we all know so well from the 20th century.</p><p>“The Other” is the key.</p><p>Once a demagogue successfully turns a person, a group, a gender (or gender preference), a region, a nation, or a race into the Other, the consequences are terribly but consistently predictable.</p><p>An Other is, virtually by definition, less than fully human. They’re not “us.” They may be alive, they may be able to feel emotion, they may be able to communicate, but they’re not us.</p><p>Therefore, what we do to Them isn’t as important or consequential as what we may do to Us. (See “slavery”; U.S. history 101.)</p><p>And when this de-humanization is used by those with economic, religious or political power (the lines between the three are often indistinguishable), it becomes weaponized.</p><p>It seems one of the most fatal flaws of the human race is that we keep forgetting this lesson—or that those elites lusting for wealth and power keep remembering and enthusiastically using it to rally their less-powerful, less-fortunate peers.</p><p>Yesterday, Louise and I visited a castle here in the Loire Valley where Joan of Arc helped plan a history-changing battle against an Other of that day. Slaughter and looting ensued, and one group of elites ended up ceding power and land to another. And while all the details of the elites and their fantastic lives are on display, both in the castle and in any history book, what is almost entirely missing from the narrative is how the use of wealth, religion and ancestry to “other-ize” the defeated people impacted the lives of what the Bernie Sanders of that era would have called the “ordinary working people.”</p><p>While the elites marched into the history books, the “little people” were subject to rape, pillage, torture, murder and a shift from the service of one elite group to another.</p><p>It’s a story you can find in the Bible over and over again (read the Book of Joshua for some particularly startling accounts of this phenomenon). The Epic of Gilgamesh tells the same story from millennia before Joshua. Every war in every part of the world in the 65 years of my lifetime tells the same story.</p><p>And so you’d think that people like Mitch McConnell would realize how powerful and dangerous it is to, as one of my elderly German friends once said, “Gently look the other way.”</p><p>Instead, so far, like so many of his mostly Republican colleagues and much of the right-wing media, McConnell has so far refused to even acknowledge the role the systematic and even organized (both by party and by religion) other-ization of LGBT people played in the Orlando gay nightclub massacre.</p><p>The peasants who fell victim to Joan of Arc’s visions and their exploitation by the political and economic elites of her day played no role in their own other-ization and subsequent misery and death. Similarly, the people partying at Pulse had no idea that their own other-ization by both Muslim and Christian demagogues and so-called "conservative" political elites would lead to their specific grisly fate.</p><p>But we all should have known, If not specifically, in general.</p><p>If history teaches us no other lesson, it's that hate directed by elites, and the fear which that hate incites in the followers of those elites, always ends badly.</p><p>Over the short-term, the elites may think they’ve won.</p><p>Republicans who use hate of LGBT people as a political tool will see a bump in the polls.</p><p>Companies that make and aggressively sell weapons of war to civilians have already seen huge increases in the value of their stock and, thus, their fortunes.</p><p>And Christian and Muslim demagogues basking in the revenge fantasies of their acolytes are already promoting another round of hate and fear from the pulpit to the mosque to YouTube.</p><p>These people and their strategy is not new. And neither is the silence of those cowed or who simply think, “This is not my fight.”</p><p>Pastor Niemoller told us of his tragic realization that he, himself, had become one of the silent ones—and eventually paid the ultimate price for his and his colleagues’ silence. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King told us, “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”</p><p>It is all of one cloth.</p><p>Bigotry, intolerance, hate and fear represent a historical arrow that points in only one direction.</p><p>And there are some brave voices, from groups like Muslims for Progressive Values calling for full rights for women and gays, to politicians like Bernie Sanders saying that, “My religion is that when you or your child hurts, I hurt,” regardless of who “you” are.</p><p>Silence and passivity are no longer options. History is filled with their consequences.</p><p>When the billionaire funders/owners of the Republican Party (and a few Democrats, tragically) smile while hate-promoting websites and radio/TV programs funnel ever-more-frightened people into their ranks; when hate-promoting pastors, priests and imams jump forward to use hate and intolerance to increase their followings; when politicians use these most primal and easily-manipulated emotions to maintain and even build their own power; it’s time for all of us to say: No.</p><p>Enough.</p><p>Too much, in fact.</p><p>We either stand together as a human family, or we die together in misery.</p><p>To paraphrase Woody Guthrie, it’s time for Republicans to take account. Which side are you on? And how much longer will you stay silent?</p> Thu, 16 Jun 2016 08:27:00 -0700 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1058371 at http://www.alternet.org Activism Activism Civil Liberties The Right Wing Orlando Massacre guns gun control mass shootings mass hate the right wing Republicans Only Care About Children Before They're Born http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/republicans-only-care-about-children-theyre-born <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Indiana Rep. Todd Rokita wants to limit access to free lunch for poor children. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/16598422596_814e9cf57b_z.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>When it comes to children, Republicans are hypocrites.</p><p>They go on and on about how "pro-life" they are, but they really only care about "humans" before they're born. After that, they couldn't care less.</p><p>Case in point: the so-called "Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016," the brainchild of Indiana Rep. Todd Rokita that would decimate a key part of the federal free lunch program.</p><p>This bill is about as mean-spirited as it gets, and to understand why, you first need to understand something about how the federal free lunch program works.</p><p>Thanks to something called "community eligibility," students at certain schools automatically qualify to get a free lunch if 40 percent of their classmates live in poverty.</p><p>Although it may not sound like much, this is a really big deal.</p><p>Under community eligibility, high poverty schools no longer have to fill out the mountains of paperwork they'd normally have to fill out to get individual students enrolled in the free lunch program.</p><p>Everyone is enrolled, and as a result, these high poverty school are now free to focus on other problems like, you know, educating their students.</p><p>Sounds like pretty good idea, right? Not only are you keeping kids healthy, you're also cutting a lot of red tape.</p><p>That's something everyone can get behind.</p><p>Everyone that is, except for Representative Rokita.</p><p>Rokita's "Improving Child Nutrition and Education Act of 2016" would raise the poverty threshold necessary to participate in community eligibility to 60 percent.</p><p>Again this might not sound like much, but in the context of how the free lunch program actually functions, it's a really, really, big deal.</p><p>If Representative Rokita's bill becomes law, more than 7,000 schools serving almost 3.5 million students <a href="http://www.cbpp.org/research/food-assistance/house-bill-restricting-free-school-meals-option-could-increase-food" target="_blank">would be affected</a>.</p><p>Those schools would no longer get to use community eligibility to automatically enroll all students in the free lunch program and would instead have to go back to the old application system, student by student, with its mountains and mountains of paperwork.</p><p>This isn't quite a death sentence, but for high poverty schools that are already struggling to deal with things like violence, drugs and broken homes, it's just another thing to deal with, and an unnecessary one at that.</p><p>Obviously, there's a certain amount of irony in the fact that Representative Rokita, a Republican, is pushing a bill that would create even more red tape.</p><p>But then again, Republicans have always been fine with "big government" if it means demonizing poor people.</p><p>So that's not that shocking.</p><p>No, the really shocking thing here is the fact that this is the same Representative Rokita who is 100 percent <a href="https://rokita.house.gov/press-release/rokita-%E2%80%93-statement-planned-parenthood%E2%80%99s-gruesome-practices" target="_blank">on board</a> with House Republicans' kangaroo court investigation of Planned Parenthood.</p><p>That investigation, of course, is based on a total lie, and it's cost taxpayers' so much money that House Republicans have <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/house-republicans-planned-parenthood_us_564cf3f0e4b031745cefa68a" target="_blank">had to dip into</a> Congress' reserve fund to help pay for it.</p><p>You really couldn't ask for a better example of the screwed-up priorities of so-called "pro-life" Republicans like Representative Rokita.</p><p>They'll go out of their way to protect a mass of cells that is only philosophically a child, but once it comes to real, live, breathing children, suddenly there's no money, suddenly cost is an issue, suddenly we need to talk about cutting spending.</p><p>And here's the thing: Republicans don't even really care about "unborn children" -- the whole "pro-life" thing just a front.</p><p>Sure, some of them probably believe that abortion is the next Holocaust, but in the grand scheme of things, most of them know that all the outrage about <em>Roe v. Wade</em>is just a way to keep the suckers in line.</p><p>How do you know? Well, if Republicans really cared about kids they'd stop their blockade of Medicaid expansion.</p><p>They'd also stop supporting the war on drugs that creates the school-to-prison pipeline. They'd stop turning our schools into profit-making engines for the billionaire class; and they'd stop trying to cut Head Start, food stamps and welfare for single moms.</p><p>They'd also pass federal funding for Flint, Michigan.</p><p>The list goes on.</p><p>When it comes down to it, most Republicans don't give a rat's ass about US children.</p> Tue, 10 May 2016 10:13:00 -0700 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1056213 at http://www.alternet.org The Right Wing Education Food The Right Wing republicans reproductive rights abortion anti-choice women's rights Fossil Fuel Billionaires Kill Children http://www.alternet.org/environment/fossil-fuel-billionaires-kill-children <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">They&#039;ll say that the modeling is imperfect, that the science is imprecise and that there is still disagreement in the scientific community.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/big_bend_power_station_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, Prince may have had a drug problem and a record-breaking 88,000 people have been evacuated from Fort McMurray, Canada.</p><p>If you've turned on a corporate 24-hour news network in the last couple of days, those are three things that you have definitely heard about.</p><p>But what you didn't hear from the mainstream media is that the wildfires in Alberta, and in Alaska, are directly related to climate change.</p><p>The media and the fossil fuel industry's shills won't tell you this, but there is no doubt about the fact that we are witnessing one of the most rapid periods of climate disruption in Earth's history.</p><p>The deniers will continue to sow the seeds of doubt. They'll say that the modeling is imperfect, that the science is imprecise and that there is still disagreement in the scientific community.</p><p>But the fact is, there is now universal agreement in the real scientific community about the fact that the climate is changing, and that it's cause by human activity.</p><p>And as we learn more about the nitty-gritty of the Earth's climate, as we study everything from how different types of clouds reflect sunlight to how quickly rivers will evaporate as the planet warms, one thing is becoming clearer and clearer.</p><p>The people who have been making the most extreme predictions about climate change, the so-called "alarmists," have been right all along, and in many cases, even have been too conservative in their predictions.</p><p>And for millennials, their children and the generation of teens living today: It's past time to be alarmed.</p><p>Unless we start treating this like the planetary emergency that it is, here's what's going to happen in the lifetime of a baby named "Baby Blue," if "Baby Blue" were born earlier today.</p><p>We're already seeing the loss of oxygen from our planet's oceans, and by the time "Baby Blue" turns 14 in 2030, <a href="http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/2015GB005310/full" target="_blank">reports</a> <a href="http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/ocean-s-oxygen-starts-running-low/" target="_blank">show</a> that large parts of the Earth's oceans will be depleted of oxygen, disrupting marine food chains and threatening marine ecosystems.</p><p>The <a href="http://www.worldwildlife.org/stories/ocean-assets-valued-at-24-trillion-but-dwindling-fast" target="_blank">World Wildlife Fund</a> estimates that our ocean's assets are worth at least $24 trillion, and that goods and services from coastal and marine environments create about $2.5 trillion each year, meaning that trillions of dollars of marine life would be lost by the time that "Baby Blue" turned 24 in 2040.</p><p>And then there's the "Arctic Death Spiral," which according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will likely lead to ice-free summers in the Arctic by the time "Baby Blue" is 24.</p><p>As the Arctic melts and reflective white ice recedes and reveals the dark ocean below, less sunlight is reflected from the Earth's surface and more heat is absorbed, which speeds up the rate of warming in a feedback loop that's called "Arctic Amplification."</p><p>A study <a href="http://journals.ametsoc.org/doi/abs/10.1175/JCLI-D-15-0391.1" target="_blank">published</a> at the end of April connected Arctic sea ice melt and surface melting of the Greenland ice sheet to extreme weather events in North America, like the unusually hot and dry air that is feeding the wildfires in Alberta and Alaska.</p><p>Professor Jennifer Francis, who coauthored the study, described the findings to <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2016/05/03/3774789/april-record-arctic-ice-loss/" target="_blank">Climate Progress'</a> Joe Romm: "[A]mplified Arctic warming and sea-ice loss favor the formation of blocking high pressure features in the North Atlantic. These blocks can cause all sorts of trouble. Including […] persistent weather patterns both [in North America] and [in Europe]. Persistent weather can result in extreme events, such as prolonged heat waves."</p><p>What's going on in Alberta and Alaska is directly related to those "blocking patterns," which also contribute to the breakdown of the jetstream.</p><p>And if you think it's jarring that Canada just evacuated a record-breaking 88,000 people from the wildfires in Alberta, you better brace yourself.</p><p>In a new volume of "<a href="http://futureofchildren.org/publications/docs/Climate%20Change%20Full%20Issue.pdf" target="_blank">Future of Children</a>," a report put together by Princeton University and the Brookings Institution, the scientists/authors <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/05/160504121330.htm" target="_blank">estimate</a> that we could see up to 200 million climate refugees by the year 2050, when "Baby Blue" would be only 34 years old, and just about ready to start a family of his or her own.</p><p>By that same year, temperatures of around 114 degrees Fahrenheit will be five times as common in the Middle East and Africa as they were when George W. Bush took office in the year 2000, which will force many of the 500 million people who live in those regions to try to relocate, according to a study from the <a href="http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10584-016-1665-6" target="_blank">Max Planck Society</a>.</p><p>Right now, record numbers of people are being evacuated due to unusually hot weather in the North; fisheries are under serious threat because our warming oceans aren't absorbing oxygen like they used to; and, the current rate of Arctic melting is threatening to release 2 trillion metric tons of methane into the atmosphere within the next century, which would all but guarantee a sixth mass-extinction event.</p><p>If "Baby Blue" were born today, he or she wouldn't see any of the warning signs of runaway global climate change.</p><p>Because it's already happening.</p><p>This is no longer about saving the planet for future generations way down the line.</p><p>This is about preserving the planet so that the babies being born today have healthy oceans to fish and arable lands to farm, and so they don't have to deal with the hundreds of millions of refugees fleeing regions that have been made uninhabitable because of our fossil fuel addiction.</p><p>This is about preserving the planet so that the leaders who are being born today can focus on feeding the hungry and lifting people out of poverty as adults, instead of trying to avert a mass-extinction event.</p><p>It's past time to raise the alarms, and soon it's going to be past time to put on the brakes.</p><p>We need a carbon tax NOW. We need a massive green investment program to go 100 percent renewable and bring our energy system into the 21st century, and we need to hold the fossil fuel giants accountable for knowingly robbing our children of their future.</p> Fri, 06 May 2016 09:58:00 -0700 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1056006 at http://www.alternet.org Environment Environment donald trump GOP nominees World Wildlife Fund climate change It's Time to Acknowledge the Immense Power Twitter and Facebook Now Have in U.S. Elections http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/its-time-acknowledge-immense-power-twitter-and-facebook-now-have-us-elections <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">With confidence in the mainstream media at an all-time low, voters are turning to Facebook and Twitter for news. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_181985711.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Americans don't trust the media. In fact, studies show that we like, really, really, really don't trust the media.</p><p>A new survey from the Media Insight Project, for example, shows that just 6 percent of Americans "say they have great confidence in the press."</p><p>Six percent! Just for some perspective, that's about the same number of Americans who say they have trust in Congress, <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trust-in-media_us_57148543e4b06f35cb6fec58" target="_blank">which is about 4 percent</a>.</p><p>It's up for debate whether that reflects worse on Congress or the media, but one thing is clear: The U.S. public's almost total distrust of the press isn't going away anytime soon.</p><p>Public approval of the media has been declining for decades, and, according to some polls, <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/185927/americans-trust-media-remains-historical-low.aspx" target="_blank">has now reached</a> record lows.</p><p>This shouldn't be that surprising to anyone who's been paying attention.</p><p>Thanks to the death of the Fairness Doctrine, the people who are supposed to report the news no longer have any obligation whatsoever to, you know, report the news. As a result, corporate media, especially corporate television media, has become almost completely indistinguishable from "infotainment."</p><p>In many cases, it actually is infotainment.</p><p>Combine that with the fact that the press has gotten it very, very wrong on the biggest issues of our time—the Iraq War, for example—and it's amazing that anyone trusts them to get any story straight.</p><p>So, if Americans don't trust the traditional media, where are they getting their news?</p><p>Well, many of them, especially younger Americans, are getting it from the Internet and social media.</p><p>This is having a big, game-changing effect on our democracy.</p><p>Because of social media, politicians and activists now don't have to worry as much about getting their message across through corporate-controlled media.</p><p>They can now actually work around traditional corporate media altogether by using sites like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to reach out to supporters and rally the public to their cause.</p><p>This dynamic has played a huge role in the rise of Bernie Sanders. There was a "Bernie blackout" in traditional corporate media for the first six months of Bernie's campaign, and, at least initially, Sanders supporters could only find news about their candidate on Facebook and Twitter.</p><p>This has changed recently, but there is still an obvious anti-Bernie bias out there in the corporate press, even at supposedly "liberal" networks like MSNBC. As a result, social media has continued to play a big role in the campaign, acting as a corrective of sorts to mainstream media.</p><p>Because of its ability to "disrupt" establishment memes and establishment narratives, it's tempting to see social media as the antidote to America's media trust deficit.</p><p>But we should be careful.</p><p>Social media isn't the white knight of open source information that it appears to be. It's often just as biased as traditional media, and to make matters worse, doesn't have the same firebreaks that make traditional media at least somewhat accountable to the public.</p><p>Take, for example, Facebook. That company is now <a href="http://gizmodo.com/facebook-employees-asked-mark-zuckerberg-if-they-should-1771012990" target="_blank">having an internal debate</a> about whether it has an ethical obligation to stop Donald Trump from getting elected president.</p><p>This is obviously legal and protected by the First Amendment, but it raises serious questions about how much we can rely on social media as an unbiased or at least transparent news source.</p><p>If the New York Times, for example, wanted to stop Trump from getting elected president, it would do what newspapers are supposed to do when they decide to take a side in a political campaign: It would endorse Trump's opponent and publish editorials explaining why.</p><p>Facebook doesn't have to do any such thing.</p><p>In fact, if it wanted to, the corporation could just start blocking any and all articles that its users post about Trump.</p><p>Again, this would all be perfectly legal.</p><p>But because Facebook doesn't publish its internals, we would never know for sure if the sudden disappearance of Trump articles on its network was the result of a censorship campaign or just a sign that fewer people were interested in reading about Trump.</p><p>That's really the real danger here.</p><p>People turn to social media to get news they think isn't covered on traditional media, which is why they're more likely to believe what they see on Facebook and Twitter is true or probably true.</p><p>But, again, this isn't really the case. And that's not just because there's more information out there, and thus, a greater possibility that that information could be wrong.</p><p>No, it's because the corporations that control social media are corporations just like the corporations that control traditional media, and they're even less accountable to the public.</p><p>Social media is changing the way that people get their news, but it's not a silver bullet.</p><p>We must stay vigilant.</p> Thu, 21 Apr 2016 10:21:00 -0700 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1054873 at http://www.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 facebook twitter elections coverage media media criticism The GOP Is Now Openly Bragging About Suppressing Voters http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/gop-now-openly-bragging-about-suppressing-voters <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The Voting Rights Act is under siege; we need a constitutional amendment to protect it.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_284974907.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Voting, Thomas Paine once said, "is the beating heart of democracy." It's what makes our democracy possible. Without it, Paine said, "man would be reduced to slavery."</p><p>It's for this very reason, of course, that conservatives have worked since the founding of our republic to make it harder or downright impossible for people who are not part of the political and economic elite to vote.</p><p>This conservative war on voting has taken on a number of different forms, Jim Crow being just the most obvious example, but it has always been based on one simple idea: conservatives lose elections when more people vote, and win elections when fewer people vote.</p><p>As American Legislative Exchange Council founder and Reagan advisor Paul Weyrich <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8GBAsFwPglw&amp;nohtml5=False" target="_blank">put it back in 1980</a>, "our leverage in the elections… goes up as the voting populace goes down."</p><p>This has been the thinking behind every conservative voter suppression effort in history.</p><p>But conservatives are smart.</p><p>They've always been careful to disguise their war against voting in language that makes it sound acceptable, at least to the minimally informed.</p><p>But every once in a while the mask slips, and conservatives tell the truth about their voter suppression accomplishments.</p><p>Well, the mask slipped last night in Wisconsin.</p><p>During an interview with a local TV station, Republican Wisconsin Congressman Glenn Grothman admitted the truth about his state's new voter ID law.</p><p>Like all voter suppression laws, Wisconsin's voter ID law is supposedly about stopping "voting fraud."</p><p>But that's not what Congressman Grothman said it's about.</p><p><a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ta0W8_qn0Aw" target="_blank">He said</a> it was about making sure Republicans win the Badger State in November.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" scrolling="no" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/Ta0W8_qn0Aw" width="600"></iframe></p><p>This actually isn't the first time a Republican has let the mask slip about voter suppression laws.</p><p>Back in 2012, Mike Turzai, the Republican leader of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EuOT1bRYdK8" target="_blank">said</a> that his state's new voter ID law would "allow Mitt Romney to win."</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" scrolling="no" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/EuOT1bRYdK8" width="600"></iframe></p><p>The really revealing thing about that clip and the clip of what Congressman Grothman said last night is the fact that neither the Congressman nor Representative Turzai even bothered to mention voter fraud as the so-called reason for passing voter ID laws.</p><p>They just went straight ahead and said that voter suppression laws are about winning elections.</p><p>The reason they did this, of course, is that voter fraud is just a canard.</p><p>It's a lie made up by Republicans to justify their unconstitutional and undemocratic war on democracy.</p><p>In fact, a <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2014/08/06/a-comprehensive-investigation-of-voter-impersonation-finds-31-credible-incidents-out-of-one-billion-ballots-cast/" target="_blank">recent study out of Loyola University found</a> just 31 credible cases of voter fraud out of more than a billion ballots cast in the decade-and-a-half between 2000 and 2014.</p><p>You're more than 100 times more likely to get struck by lightning than you are to see voter fraud in the wild.</p><p>And here's the thing—while voter fraud itself is for all intents and purposes a myth, the effects of voter suppression are quite real.</p><p>A new study out of the University of California at San Diego, for example, found that the turnout gap between Republicans and Democrats in states with voter ID suppression laws <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/dc/voter-id-study-minorities-liberals" target="_blank">jumped from 2.3 to 5.6 percentage points</a> after those voter ID laws went into effect.</p><p>There is no debate.</p><p>Voter ID suppression laws are about one thing and one thing alone: keeping Democrats away from the polls so Republicans can win. And, in that regard, they work.</p><p>Even Republicans will admit that when you catch them on the right day.</p><p>And, ironically, the reason Republicans can get away with this is because of slavery. The framers of the US Constitution didn't put a right to vote into the US Constitution because they were afraid that right might be claimed by slaves, and they didn't want to get into that sticky wicket.</p><p>So how can we protect our democracy from this kind of flagrant and partisan voter suppression?</p><p>Well, for one, restore the Voting Rights Act of 1965 to full strength.</p><p>Ever since the right-wingers on the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act back in 2013, Republicans in the old Confederacy have had free reign to suppress the vote of millions of their own citizens.</p><p>That needs to stop, and Congress should get its act together right now and fix the Voting Rights Act.</p><p>But we need to go farther than that.</p><p>Today's war on voting isn't just based in the South; it's national.</p><p>That's why it's time to enshrine an affirmative right to vote in the US Constitution, right along with the right to free speech, the right to due process and the right to equal protection under the law.</p><p>The beating heart of democracy is in grave danger. Let's keep it safe from those who would wish to destroy it.</p><p>Let's make voting a constitutional right.</p> Thu, 07 Apr 2016 13:40:00 -0700 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1054164 at http://www.alternet.org Civil Liberties Civil Liberties The Right Wing voter id laws voter suppression republican party election 2016 tea party and the right There's a Dark Future for America Coming If We Let the Middle Class Disappear http://www.alternet.org/economy/dark-future-america-if-we-let-middle-class-disappear <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> Political democracy and an economic middle class is the natural state of humankind.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_56784832.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>It's no secret that America's middle class is in <a href="http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/09/the-american-middle-class-is-losing-ground/" target="_blank">decline</a>. But while we focus on how that decline started (and who is to blame), we often forget to consider what happens if our middle class is wiped out entirely.</p><p>If we don't work to restore the American middle class to the vibrant, robust segment of our nation it once was, we may soon witness the end of small-d democracy as we know it. As history and nature both show us, working for the collective good is essential to a functioning democracy, and the natural outcome of that work is a strong and vibrant middle class. </p><p>The most ancient form of democracy is found among virtually all indigenous peoples of the world. It's the way humans have lived for more than 150,000 years. There are no rich and no poor among most tribal people: everybody is "middle class." There is also little hierarchy. The concept of chief is one that Europeans brought with them to America, which in large part is what produced so much confusion in the 1600s and 1700s as most Native American tribes would never delegate absolute authority to any one person to sign a treaty. Instead decisions were made by consensus in these most ancient cauldrons of democracy.</p><p>The Founders of this nation, and the framers of our Constitution were heavily influenced and inspired by the democracy they saw all around them. Much of the U.S. Constitution is based on the Iroquois Confederacy: the five (later six) tribes who occupied territories from New England to the edge of the Midwest. It was a democracy with elected representatives, an upper and lower house, and a supreme court (made up entirely of women, who held final say in five of the six tribes).<br /><br />As Benjamin Franklin noted to his contemporaries at the Constitutional Convention: "It would be a very strange thing if Six Nations of Ignorant Savages should be capable of forming a Scheme for such an Union and be able to execute it in such a manner, as that it has subsisted Ages, and appears indissoluble, and yet a like union should be impracticable for ten or a dozen English colonies."<br /><br />The framers modeled the oldest democracies, and the oldest forms of the middle class, and thus helped create the truly widespread and strong first middle class in the history of modern civilization. That first American middle class was a far cry from the 1950s stereotype that is often referenced in discussions of the ideal middle-income lifestyle.</p><p>During our nation's early history, “middle class” was much closer to what we consider today as “working class,” and it was only open to the white, male population. But that early middle class was still a distinct and separate segment of the population from the ruling elites who held great fortunes or the servant class who were considered nothing more than property. For the first time in modern history, that middle group of individuals had a voice and power, and they helped shape our young democracy.</p><p>Back in Europe, however, the sort of democracy the framers were borrowing and inventing, and even the existence of a middle class itself, was considered unnatural. For most of the 7,000 years of recorded human history, all the way back to the Gilgamesh Epic, the oldest written story, what we call a middle class is virtually unheard of—as was democracy. Throughout most of the history of what we call civilization, an unrestrained economy and the idea of hierarchical social organization has always produced a small ruling elite and a large number of nearly impoverished workers.<br /><br />Up until the founding of America, the middle class was considered unnatural by many political philosophers. Thomas Hobbes wrote in his 1651 magnum opus <em>Leviathan</em> that the world was better off with the rule of the few over the many, even if that meant that the many were impoverished. Without a strong and iron-fisted ruler, Hobbes wrote, there would be "no place for industry...no arts, no letters, no society." Because Hobbes believed that ordinary people couldn't govern themselves, he believed that most people would be happy to exchange personal freedom and economic opportunity for the ability to live in safety and security. For the working class to have both freedom and security, Hobbes suggested, was impossible.<br /><br />Our nation's Founders disagreed. They believed in the rights of ordinary people to self-determination, so they created a form of government in which We the People rule. They declared that all people, not just the elite, have the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." (In that declaration, Thomas Jefferson replaced John Locke's famous "life, liberty, and property" with "life, liberty, and happiness"—the first time the word had ever appeared in the founding document of any nation.) They believed that the people could create a country founded on personal freedom and economic opportunity for all. The Founders believed in the power of a middle class; and in defiance of Hobbes and the conventional wisdom of Europe, they believed democracy and a middle class were the "natural state of man."<br /><br />As John Quincy Adams <a href="http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/amistad_002.asp" target="_blank">argued</a> before the Supreme Court in 1841 on behalf of freeing rebelling slaves in the Amistad case, he stood before and pointed to a copy of the Declaration of Independence:</p><blockquote>That DECLARATION says that every man is "endowed by his Creator with certain inalienable rights," and that "among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness"....I will not here discuss the right or the rights of slavery, but I say that the doctrine of Hobbes, that War is the natural state of man, has for ages been exploded, as equally disclaimed and rejected by the philosopher and the Christian. That it is utterly incompatible with any theory of human rights, and especially with the rights which the Declaration of Independence proclaims as self-evident truths.</blockquote><p>As he had so many times before, John Qunicy Adams used his oral arguments in the Amistad case to insert the word “slavery” into a discussion. He <a href="http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/treasures_of_congress/text/page10_text.html" target="_blank">believed so strongly</a> in personal freedom and economic opportunity for all that he went back to Congress for another eight years after his term as president just to help overturn the so-called "<a href="http://www.class.uh.edu/gl/abol3.htm" target="_blank">Gag Rule</a>" which automatically “tabled,” or postponed any anti-slavery legislation without it ever even being heard. </p><p>While it would be years before that law was overturned and decades before the <a href="https://www.archives.gov/exhibits/featured_documents/emancipation_proclamation/" target="_blank">Emancipation Proclamation</a>, John Qunicy Adams recognized that our strength as a nation came from our democracy, and that the strength of our democracy came from individual freedom and opportunity. </p><p>In a <a href="https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/John_Quincy_Adams" target="_blank">letter</a> to James Loyd in October of 1822, he wrote, “Individual liberty is individual power, and as the power of a community is a mass compounded of individual powers, the nation which enjoys the most freedom must necessarily be in proportion to its numbers the most powerful nation.”</p><p>In other words, he recognized Hobbes was wrong, and that the “natural state of man” gave him a voice and the power to use it. <br /><br />It turns out that the Founders knew something Hobbes didn't: political democracy and an economic middle class is the natural state of humankind. Indeed, it's the natural state of the entire animal kingdom. Biologists used to think animal societies were ruled by alpha males. Recent studies have found that while it's true alpha males (and females, in some species) have the advantage in courtship rituals, that's where their power ends. Biologists Tim Roper and L. Conradt <a href="http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v421/n6919/full/nature01294.html" target="_blank">discovered</a> that animals don't follow a leader, but instead move together. </p><p>James Randerson did a followup <a href="https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn3248-democracy-beats-despotism-in-the-animal-world/%5D" target="_blank">study</a> with red deer to prove the point. How does a herd of deer decide it's time to stop grazing and go toward the watering hole? As they're grazing, various deer point their bodies in seemingly random directions, until it comes time to go drink. Then individuals begin to graze while facing one of several watering holes. When a majority of deer are pointing toward one particular watering hole, they all move in that direction. Randerson saw instances where the alpha deer was actually one of the last to move toward the hole rather than one of the first. <br /><br />When I interviewed Tim Roper about his research at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, he told me that when his findings were first published, scientists from all over the world called to tell him they were seeing the same thing with their research subjects. Birds flying in flocks aren't following a leader but monitoring the motions of those around them for variations in the flight path; when more than 50 percent have moved in a particular direction—even if it's only a quarter-inch in one direction or another—the entire flock veers off that way. It's the same with fish and even swarms of gnats. Roper said his colleagues were telling him that from ants to gorillas, democracy is the norm among animals.</p><p>Just like with indigenous human societies—which have had hundreds of thousands of years of trial and error to work out the best ways to live—democracy is the norm among animals, and (other than for the Darwinian purpose of finding the best mate) hierarchy/kingdom is the rarity.<br /><br />Thus, we discover, this close relationship between the middle class and democracy is burned into our DNA, along with that of the entire animal kingdom. In a democracy there may be an elite (like the alpha male deer), but they don't rule the others. Instead the group is ruled by the vast middle—what in economic terms we would call a middle class.<br /><br />A true democracy both produces a middle class and requires a middle class for survival. Like the twin strands of DNA, democracy and the middle class are inextricably intertwined, and to break either is to destroy the viability of both.<br /><br />In human society as well, to have a democracy we must have a middle class. And to have a true middle class, a majority of the people in a nation must be educated and economically secure and must have full and easy access to real news so they can make informed decisions. Democracy requires that its citizens be able to afford to take care of themselves and their families when they get sick, to afford a decent place to live, to find meaningful and well-paying work, and to anticipate, and enjoy, a secure retirement. </p><p>This is the American Dream. It's the America my dad grew up in and the America I grew up in. It's the America that is quickly slipping away from us under the burden of crony capitalism and a political system corrupted by it.<br /><br />When there is no American Dream, when there is no middle class, there cannot be real democracy. That's why when elections are brought to nations that are in crisis or that don't have a broad, stable, well-educated middle class—such as Egypt, Iraq, Iran, and the Palestinian territories—the result is aristocrats, "strongmen," or theocrats exploiting those elections as a way of gaining decidedly undemocratic power.<br /><br />America's Founders understood the relationship between the middle class—what Thomas Jefferson called the yeomanry—and democracy. Jefferson's greatest fear for the young American nation was not a new king but a new economic aristocracy. He worried that if a small group of citizens became too wealthy—if America became polarized between the very rich and the very poor—democracy would vanish.<br /><br />Our democracy depends upon our ability to play referee to the game of business and to protect labor and the public good. It is both our right and our responsibility, Jefferson insisted, to control "overgrown wealth" from becoming "dangerous to the state," which is, so long as we are a democratic republic, We the People.<br /><br />When wealth is concentrated in the hands of the few and the middle class shrinks to the point where it's no longer a politically potent force, democracy becomes a feudal aristocracy: the rule of the elite. As Franklin D. Roosevelt pointed out in 1936, the rule of the many requires that We the People have a degree of economic as well as political freedom. When We the People are given the opportunity to educate ourselves, earn a living wage, own our own homes, and feel confident that we have good child care, health care and care in our old age—in short, when America has a thriving middle class—America also has a thriving democracy.<br /><br />It's time to restore that thriving middle class to its former glory. But, we must correct the sins of our past and make certain that economic opportunity in our nation is not reserved solely for the white, male population. We need a middle class that is open to all Americas, so that each of us has the individual freedom and power to participate in the process and shape this country's freedom.<br /><br />If we don't fight for the programs that protect and restore our middle class to its former glory and beyond, we may as well kiss our democracy goodbye. </p> Tue, 05 Apr 2016 12:07:00 -0700 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1053999 at http://www.alternet.org Economy Economy Labor The Right Wing economy labor middle class inequality entitlement programs What Happens When Neither Political Party Answers to the Bottom 90%? America in Crisis http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/what-happens-when-neither-political-party-answers-bottom-90-america-crisis <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Our nation faces a massive crisis provoked by the loss of democratic representation.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/588bc28c377b19effbe657c40a63316cde9a2304.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-f542c6a2-94c4-4a70-f9be-9ebe96167b99">As Donald Trump leads a full-scale war against the Republican establishment and elites, particularly through his attack on both their military (Iraq) and their trade (NAFTA) policies, the Democratic Party is also in a predicament that Bernie Sanders’ candidacy is exposing. Both parties right now face a great crisis of leadership/ideology as well as a great opportunity for reinvention, and whichever party first reinvents itself successfully will begin winning elections the way the Democrats did in the 1932-1968 era.  </p><p dir="ltr">If neither does, our nation faces a massive crisis provoked by the loss of democratic representation of the majority of the American electorate.  Neither party today does much of anything for the <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/nov/13/us-wealth-inequality-top-01-worth-as-much-as-the-bottom-90">bottom 90% of Americans</a>, as so clearly demonstrated by a <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-echochambers-27074746">recent study out of Princeton</a> that showed that the likelihood of legislation passing that represents the interest of that bottom 90% was equivalent, statistically, to white noise. </p><p dir="ltr">Thomas Frank’s new book <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Listen-Liberal-Happened-Party-People/dp/1627795391/">Listen, Liberal: Or, Whatever Happened to the Party of the People?</a> offers the fascinating premise that starting with the McGovern Commission of 1972 (which largely excommunicated Labor from having a large role in Democratic Party decision-making) and going into a full-out embrace of the “professional class” – i.e. the top 10% economically – the Democratic Party has largely abandoned the American working and middle class – the bottom 90%.  </p><p dir="ltr">As <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vwHXhr0MWoo">Frank told me on my program</a> recently, the doctor who delivered me in 1951 was almost certainly a Republican (then the party of the professional class), but today would almost certainly be a Democrat.  In the 1950s and 1960s virtually the entire professional class (the top 10%) was Republican; today it’s virtually all Democratic.</p><p dir="ltr">In the late 1980s, the DLC Democrats (and now the Third Way/Clinton Democrats) embraced the professional class and embraced complex solutions to our nation’s problems. They consciously moved away from labor/working class and towards an elitist embrace of banksters, the emerging “geniuses” of Silicon Valley, and the college-educated at all levels.  </p><p dir="ltr">They even went so far as to suggest it was a good thing that much of America’s blue-collar working-class high-school-diploma jobs go to China and Mexico, as we here in America needed to move to the “new economy” jobs of technology, medicine, and finance, requiring a college education.</p><p dir="ltr">This ideological change in the Party led to the Clinton-era 1990s policies that gutted our industrial base, ripped apart the social safety net (ending “the era of big government”), and financialized our economy.</p><p dir="ltr">As Frank points out, while FDR had a “brain trust” of the best and the brightest in the nation, they were drawn from a broad cross-section of America in terms of class and education.  Many didn’t even have a college education.  The Clinton and Obama administrations, on the other hand, while optically more racially diverse, are almost entirely run by people with elite educations from elite universities (particularly Harvard), who share the worldview of the DLC/<a href="http://www.thirdway.org">Third Way</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">The policies that came out of this new Democratic Party ideology (largely taken from the 1950s Republicans) have resulted in a boon for the professional class, but almost totally left behind the bottom 90%.  </p><p dir="ltr">President Obama’s failure to even bring up Card Check (the Employee Free Choice Act, which would have strengthened Labor), even after campaigning on it twice, is one of the most obvious examples of the Party’s decision to give lip service to working people, but keep their emphasis on elite complexity and the professional class that embodies it. </p><p dir="ltr">The result of these decisions and policies provided the opening for the most unlikely phenomenon (on the Democratic side) of my lifetime: a rumpled, acerbic, 74-year-old Jew with a Brooklyn accent who calls himself a “Democratic Socialist” drawing tens of thousands to stadiums across the nation and holding his own against the anointed candidate of the Democratic Party and Third Way elders.  </p><p dir="ltr">Bernie Sanders carries into the Democratic Party the message of the bottom 90%, the Occupy Movement, and the Black Lives Matter movement – and the aspirations of students and working people – so successfully in large part because they’ve been abandoned by the Democratic Party elites (including the Clinton dynasty).</p><p dir="ltr">While Thomas Frank details brilliantly the reinvention (and, probably, destruction) of the modern Democratic Party, in my book <a href="http://www.amazon.com/The-Crash-2016-Destroy-America/dp/0446584835">The Crash of 2016</a>, I detail the parallel rise of the modern Republican Party, starting with the Powell Memo within a year of the McGovern Commission.  </p><p dir="ltr">Prior to the 1970s, business in America had been largely apolitical, preferring to focus instead on making money and running companies. But Powell convinced the Chamber of Commerce and a group of wealthy ideologues to change all that, and a group of billionaires and foundations rose to the call and created the huge and well-funded “conservative” infrastructure of think-tanks, media arms (hate radio and Fox News), and the Koch Network.  </p><p dir="ltr">Within a generation, the Party elites relied almost entirely on Big Business and Big Money to get elected, only throwing rhetorical bones to the bottom 90% with their cynical “god, guns, and gays” strategy.  </p><p dir="ltr">The result of those Republican decisions and policies (many also embraced by the DLC/Third Way Democrats as well) brought us the Gingrich-congress-pushed Phil Gramm-deregulation (signed by Bill Clinton but opposed by most congressional Democrats) that crashed the world economy (and threatens to do it again any day now); changes in tax and trade laws that let the rich get fabulously richer but flat-lined wages of blue-collar workers for two generations; and an open revolt among Republicans in the form of the Tea Party and the Trump candidacy.</p><p dir="ltr">Which leaves America at a crossroads.</p><p dir="ltr">With both political parties captured almost entirely by the interest of the top 1% (Republicans) and the top 10% (Democrats), the bottom 90% feel they have nowhere else to go.  For the past few decades, they’ve expressed this reality of being unrepresented by simply not voting and not showing up for politics, which they correctly saw as rigged and not working in their interest.  </p><p dir="ltr">Now, with both Trump and Sanders exposing complex trade deals as unwieldy and destructive to the bottom 90% (but very useful and enriching to the top 10%), as well as the politically corrupt environment that supports the top 10%, people on the right and the left are waking up.</p><p dir="ltr">And they’re waking up fast and loud.</p><p dir="ltr">Interestingly, since the (Democratic) professional class includes elite-publication and TV journalists, they largely write off Sanders as an anachronism, a throwback to the FDR era which, they believe, was a nice and quaint memory but ain’t how the world works any more in this “globalized economy.”  </p><p dir="ltr">As a result, they don’t cover the Sanders candidacy, except when Bernie supporters decide to show up at Trump rallies and start a confrontation that reaches the level of spectacle that they think qualifies it as “news.”  </p><p dir="ltr">Similarly, as CBS chief executive Les Mooves so candidly pointed out at a recent stockholders meeting (revealed to the world by the brilliant reporting of <a href="https://theintercept.com/2016/02/29/cbs-donald-trump/">Lee Fang over at The Intercept</a>), the most senior management of the big networks are more than happy to give almost $2 billion in free media to Republican Donald Trump because, as Mooves said, “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS…”  </p><p dir="ltr">Thus, whichever party embraces the 90% will probably win the 2016 election.  </p><p dir="ltr">If that’s Trump and/or Sanders, it’ll either splinter the Republican and/or Democratic Party or may reinvent that party in a way that it can begin to build and hold multigenerational national political power.  </p><p dir="ltr">If Trump is the Republican nominee, he’ll almost certainly win as a change-candidate in a change-year against establishment-candidate Clinton.  </p><p dir="ltr">The danger to our nation, though, is that Trump’s belligerent nationalism and militarism represents the same sort of sentiments of the 1930s European National Socialists, and could reform America in a really ugly way, even as he could maintain popularity by being the “I’m here for the 90%” candidate by producing a few real social and economic reforms (yes, the largest part of the early popularity of the European fascists in the 1930s was that they did real social reforms and rebuilt their nation’s respective infrastructures and middle classes). </p><p dir="ltr">If the 2016 reform candidate is on the Democratic side and it’s Bernie Sanders, he’ll almost certainly win against any non-Trump establishment Republican (and could also easily beat Trump, according to the polls).  His presidency would force the Democratic Party to re-embrace the 90%, and, combined with Bernie’s positive values of social and economic justice, could take America back to another era of a strong middle class, with peace and prosperity.  </p><p dir="ltr">(And either a Trump or Sanders candidacy would only succeed over the loud, powerful, and probably very, very ugly screams and actions of the top 0.001% and the Koch Network.  It’d be a titanic battle.)</p><p dir="ltr">If all the best efforts of the elites in both parties fail (an unlikely outcome), all the polls at this moment show Sanders easily beating Trump, although that could flip in the face of a large market crash or another 9/11-type attack.</p><p dir="ltr">The more likely outcome, given all the machinations of the elite media and both party’s elites, is that the Republicans will nominate an establishment candidate like Kasich or Ryan/Romney, and that the Democratic Party will nominate Hillary Clinton.  </p><p dir="ltr">The choice between an establishment Republican or an establishment Democrat will depress overall political turnout, turn an emerging generation of Millennials into radical cynics, and feed growing explosions among the base of both parties (Tea Party and the latest version of Occupy/BLM).  It could mean chaos in our streets for a decade or more.</p><p dir="ltr">No matter what happens in this 2016 election, though, the bottom 90% has had enough.  </p><p dir="ltr">If nothing else, the astonishing number of people who say they’ll vote for either Trump or Sanders (i.e. “the outsider”) if the other party (even their own party) puts up an establishment candidate is unprecedented, and clearly shows that our nation is on the brink (if not in the throes) of a political revolution.</p><p dir="ltr">The Great Depression of 1930 confronted the world’s two largest industrial powers with similar disasters; Germany and the United States were the hardest hit in terms of a rapid loss of standard of living among the bottom 90%.  </p><p dir="ltr">We chose FDR (Sanders) to lead us out of the mess created by the Republican elites during the Harding, Coolidge, and Hoover administrations.  Germany chose Hitler (Trump) to lead it out of the mess created by the ruling elites of his day.</p><p dir="ltr">Arnold Tynbee is, probably apocryphally, quoted as having said: “When the last man who remembers the horrors of the last great war dies, the next great war becomes inevitable.”  </p><p dir="ltr">It could be updated to read today: “When the people who remember what America was like before the Reagan Revolution begin to die off, the next revolution is inevitable.”</p><p dir="ltr">Whether it’ll be played out in the ballot box or the streets is yet to be seen.    </p><p><br /><br /><br /> </p> Sun, 20 Mar 2016 09:02:00 -0700 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1052909 at http://www.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 frank economics politics What Will a Trump Presidency Look Like? The Rise of the Nazis Is a Pretty Good Guide http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/what-will-trump-presidency-look-rise-nazis-pretty-good-guide <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Milton Mayer&#039;s book presents an upsettingly familiar formula to fascism and explains how It could happen here, too. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/24224402311_b5fdc2769e_z_1.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>Editor's Note: This essay is adapted from <em>Thom Hartmann's review of</em> </em><a href="http://www.thomhartmann.com/blog/2005/11/they-thought-they-were-free">They Thought They Were Free</a><em> <em>by Milton Mayer.</em></em></p><p>After watching the rise of Donald Trump and the inevitable protests against his hateful rhetoric, many of us can't help but recall the warnings we've read and heard from those who knew from personal experience what such an authoritarian could do to a great nation.</p><p><em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/They-Thought-Were-Free-Germans/dp/0226511928">They Thought They Were Free</a>: The Germans 1933-'45</em> is an intensely personal book for me. Although I was born after Hitler was five years dead, the horrible dance between fascism and democracy has fascinated me since childhood. Through a series of odd coincidences, my adult life has been heavily intertwined with those of both Hitler's Nazis and their victims.</p><p>I've had several close friends who lost family members in the Holocaust. I've spent a lot of time in Israel, sobbed at Yad Vashem, and my wife Louise and I played a role when two of our closest friends, Hal and Shelley Cohen, started <a href="http://www.orr-shalom.org.il/">Orr Shalom</a>, which is now one of the largest Jewish (and non-Jewish) programs for abused children in Israel. Before I learned English I was speaking Yiddish, learned from our Holocaust-survivor neighbors in Detroit who cared for me when my parents worked, and today I can recite Hebrew prayers and speak German with accents and inflections more characteristic of a first than a second language.</p><p>On the other side of the coin, I think back to the days I spent with an old and dear friend, Armin Lehmann, who is no longer alive to witness the rise of Donald Trump and speak out. At the age of 16, Armin was the Hitler Youth courier who handed to Adolf Hitler the papers that caused Hitler to commit suicide two days later. Armin was there when the suicide happened. He was there when Joseph and Magda Goebbels poisoned their six children and then committed suicide. He watched it all. If you see the movie <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0009RCPUC/ref=nosim/thomhartmann/">Downfall</a>, you'll see a teenage actor depicting my friend Armin.</p><p>Armin and I first met in 1984 when we were paired up by a marketing/training company to lecture in Amsterdam (and later, many other cities) to teach advertising, marketing and communications for American Express and KLM. I had no idea he had been Hitler's last courier, or that he would later write a book titled <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/1592285783/"><em>In Hitler's Bunker: A Boy Soldier's Eyewitness Account of the Fuhrer's Last Days</em></a>. We were friends for 15 years before he told me of his experiences. Throughout those years, I knew him only as a tireless campaigner for peace, and until his death, the man behind a peace-themed website.</p><p>Armin's revelation about his past came when an old friend and I set out to write a book about the religion — the cult — of the Nazis. Scott Berg and I traveled across Europe, interviewing people. We snuck into and photographed the altar in an old castle where Hitler initiated his inner circle, near an SS cemetery where every week fresh-cut flowers appear and the tombstones are regularly polished to a high gloss. We infiltrated a meeting of aging SS members, complete with black candles and wreaths hung from the ceiling, near Wewelsburg, a city in Germany that Hitler intended to turn into his Vatican for his Thousand Years of Peace.</p><p>On our way into the meeting, we passed a house decorated with ancient runes and human skulls. When discovered, we fled, fearing for our lives. (Scott and I ended up not finishing the book after several unsettling and threatening experiences. I decided it would be less dangerous and more productive to write a book about the Kennedy assassination.)</p><p>Years before that (1978), I'd met a former Nazi who so impressed me with his commitment to peace and his deep spirituality (much learned from his Hasidic mentor, a Polish Jew who survived the Holocaust) that I wrote a book about him, titled <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Prophets-Way-Guide-Living-Now/dp/0892811986/"><em>The Prophet's Way</em></a>. (It's also available in <a href="http://www.amazon.de/Weg-Propheten-Ber%C3%BChrung-Macht-Lebens/dp/392863271X/">German</a>.) In the years I lived in Germany (1986–'87), I met at least two dozen elderly Germans who hated Hitler, who still loved Hitler, and every shade in between.</p><p>I include all this personal and historical/reference information with this review of Milton Mayer's book in hopes of establishing enough credibility in your mind to make a simple statement: <em>It could happen here, too</em>.</p><p>This was also Mayer's great fear and great fascination, after he got to know real Nazis. An American Jew of German ancestry and a brilliant reporter, Mayer went to Germany seven years after Hitler's fall and befriended 10 "ordinary guy" Nazis. His book is, in large part, his story of that experience. Intertwined through it, written in 1955, are repeated overt and subtle warnings to future generations of Americans: us, today.</p><p>Mayer opens the book by noting that he was prepared to hate the Nazis he would meet. But he discovered they were just as human as the rest of us:</p><blockquote>I liked them. I couldn't help it. Again and again, as I sat or walked with one or another of my ten [Nazi] friends, I was overcome by the same sensation that had got in the way of my newspaper reporting in Chicago years before [in the 1930s]. I liked Al Capone. I liked the way he treated his mother. He treated her better than I treated mine.</blockquote><p>He wrote about how if he were to die that night, at least he could look back on some good he had done. But his Nazi friends would never be able to die in peace, knowing the evil they had participated in, if even by acts of omission, could never be wiped clean. And he dreaded that Americans would feel the same for the acts we might one day commit as a nation:</p><blockquote>Now I see a little better how Nazism overcame Germany — not by attack from without or by subversion from within, but with a whoop and a holler. It was what most Germans wanted — or, under pressure of combined reality and illusion, came to want. They wanted it; they got it; and they liked it.<p>I came home a little bit afraid for my country, afraid of what it might want, and get, and like, under combined pressure of reality and illusion. I felt — and feel — that it was not German Man that I met, but Man. He happened to be in Germany under certain conditions. He might be here under certain conditions. He might, under certain conditions, be I.</p><p>If I — and my countrymen — ever succumbed to that concatenation of conditions, no Constitution, no laws, no police, and certainly no army would be able to protect us from harm.</p></blockquote><p>Among Mayer's stories are some of the most telling aspects of how the Nazis came to take over Germany (and much of Europe). Mayer told how one of his friends said:</p><blockquote>To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it — please try to believe me — unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us had ever had occasion to develop.<p>Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained, or on occasion, "regretted," that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these "little measures" that no "patriotic German" could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.</p></blockquote><p>In this conversation, Mayer's friend suggests he wasn't making an excuse for not resisting the rise of the fascists, simply pointing out an indisputable reality. This, he suggests, is how fascism takes over a nation:</p><blockquote>"Pastor Niemoller spoke for the thousands and thousands of men like me when he spoke (too modestly of himself) and said that, when the Nazis attacked the Communists, he was a little uneasy, but, after all, he was not a Communist, and so he did nothing: and then they attacked the Socialists, and he was a little uneasier, but, still, he was not a Socialist, and he did nothing; and then the schools, the press, the Jews, and so on, and he was always uneasier, but still he did nothing. And then they attacked the Church, and he was a Churchman, and he did something — but then it was too late."<p>"Yes," I said.</p><p>"You see," my colleague went on, "one doesn't see exactly where or how to move. Believe me, this is true. Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for the next and the next. You wait for the one great shocking occasion, thinking that others, when such a shock comes, will join with you in resisting somehow. You don't want to act, or even to talk, alone; you don't want to 'go out of your way to make trouble.' Why not? — Well, you are not in the habit of doing it. And it is not just fear, fear of standing alone, that restrains you; it is also genuine uncertainty.</p><p>"Uncertainty is a very important factor, and, instead of decreasing as time goes on, it grows. Outside, in the streets, in the general community, everyone is happy. One hears no protest, and certainly sees none. You know, in France or Italy there will be slogans against the government painted on walls and fences; in Germany, outside the great cities, perhaps, there is not even this. In the university community, in your own community, you speak privately to your colleagues, some of whom certainly feel as you do; but what do they say? They say, 'It's not so bad' or 'You're seeing things' or 'You're an alarmist.'</p><p>"And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and you can't prove it. These are the beginnings, yes; but how do you know for sure when you don't know the end, and how do you know, or even surmise, the end? On the one hand, your enemies, the law, the regime, the Party, intimidate you. On the other, your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic. …</p><p>"But the one great shocking occasion, when tens or hundreds or thousands will join with you, never comes. That's the difficulty. If the last and worst act of the whole regime had come immediately after the first and the smallest, thousands, yes, millions would have been sufficiently shocked — if, let us say, the gassing of the Jews in '43 had come immediately after the 'German Firm' stickers on the windows of non-Jewish shops in '33. But of course this isn't the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D.</p><p>"And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you.</p><p>"The burden of self-deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little boy, hardly more than a baby, saying 'Jew swine,' collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose. The world you live in — your nation, your people — is not the world you were in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays.</p><p>But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed. Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God.</p></blockquote><p>Mayer's friend pointed out the terrible challenge faced then by average Germans, and today by people across the world, as governments are taken over by authoritarian, corporatist, fascist regimes.</p><p>"How is this to be avoided, among ordinary men, even highly educated ordinary men?" Mayer's friend asked rhetorically. And without the benefit of a previous and recent and well-remembered fascistic regime to refer to, he had to candidly answer: "Frankly, I do not know."</p><p>This was the great problem that Mayer's Nazis and so many in their day faced.</p><p>As Mayer's Nazi friend noted:</p><blockquote>I do not see, even now [how we could have stopped it]. Many, many times since it all happened I have pondered that pair of great maxims, <em>Principiis obsta</em> and <em>Finem respice</em> — "Resist the beginnings" and "Consider the end." But one must foresee the end in order to resist, or even see, the beginnings. One must foresee the end clearly and certainly and how is this to be done, by ordinary men or even by extraordinary men?"</blockquote><p>And here we are.</p><p>Hundreds of hours a day of right-wing programming pour out of television and radio stations nationwide, and conservative extremists (and their politician puppets) are the most common guests and experts on network news and weekend political TV shows. It was a set-up that was perfect for a fascist like Trump, and he is not the first one to employ this formula to rise in power.</p><p>As you can see, the formula is indeed simple. Identify real problems within a society, such as crime, poverty and unemployment. Invent a conspiracy about who is responsible for these problems. Say it is led by a specific group (Muslims, immigrants, liberals), and hyperinflate a few anecdotes to make that conspiracy seem vast and powerful.</p><p>Say they are trying to destroy the nation by weakening its defenses and corrupting its morals, thus causing the economic pains felt by the average person. Rally the people behind you in self-defense to restore military strength and moral clarity, and to empower great wealth and corporations to "create jobs again." Or you can boil it all down simply by promising to make the country "great again."</p><p>As Leo Strauss, the mentor of the neoconservatives currently controlling much of Washington, pointed out, it's not even necessary that the so-called enemies of the nation really be enemies. The myth of national victimhood, when wrapped in the language of morality, will elevate a politician to power just as surely as true national victimhood.</p><p>It was the formula Hitler used, and as Trump has proven, it still works today. It is, in fact, the most consistently reliable way for demagogues to gain power. It works because it's gradual but relentless, and progressively absorbs — and then intimidates or co-opts — both government and the media.</p><p>Thus, Donald Trump dominates the media, wall-to-wall, and even if he goes away from our political infotainment world any day soon, the genie is out of the bottle.</p><p>Even many of the so-called liberal news networks perpetuate those extremist views by failing to denounce the hateful smears against Muslims and African Americans and Mexicans and women. Former MSNBC producer Jeff Cohen told me (and wrote in his book <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Cable-News-Confidential-Misadventures-Corporate/dp/097606216X/">Cable News Confidential</a>) that he was ordered by the network always to have at least two conservatives on the Donahue show whenever one liberal appeared, "and three conservatives to Michael Moore."</p><p>It seems like not much has changed on that network, perhaps because it's profitable (as Les Moonves revealed about CBS last week), or perhaps it's because, like the average Germans of the 1930s, they do not want to stand up to an authoritarian fascist all on their own.</p><p>In 2005, Attorney General Gonzales called the Geneva Conventions "quaint" (as Trump suggests now); Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld stood accused of ordering torture (Trump wants more!); Bush and Cheney knowingly lied to us and the world in order to lead an election-year preemptive war (Trump suggests a few more wars); and Congress reauthorized the original PATRIOT Act which, itself, had been passed in 2001 without Congress reading it, eerily like the <a href="http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0316-08.htm">German Parliament</a> passed the Enabling Acts after the Reichstag was burned.</p><p>Despite all of the warnings, we have not stood together as a people and reversed this slide into authoritarianism.</p><p>So how do we counter it? As Mayer so movingly narrated, the experience of 20th-century Europe demonstrates that those abusing power must be confronted with equally vigorous power.</p><p>In the 1930s, Germans who believed in republican democracy were overwhelmed before they realized how completely their civil liberties and national institutions had been seized. We must not allow it to happen in our nation. Read <em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/They-Thought-Were-Free-Germans/dp/0226511928">They Thought They Were Free</a></em> and awaken as many as you can.</p> Mon, 14 Mar 2016 07:49:00 -0700 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1052487 at http://www.alternet.org The Right Wing Books Election 2016 Immigration The Right Wing donald trump trump nazi nazis holocaust Why Insurance Companies Are Nervous About Sanders' Health Care Agenda http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/why-insurance-companies-are-nervous-about-sanders-health-care-agenda <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Bernie is simply calling for what the architects of Medicare had in mind all along. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_381584902.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Ever since the day Bernie Sanders announced his campaign for president – and long before, in fact – he has been attacked for his stance on single-payer health care. You can find no shortage of articles in print and online about how it's unrealistic, but far too few of those writers have explored the actual history of Bernie's Medicare-for-All plan – or the insurance lobby talking points that have made their way back in to our national discussion.</p><p>For if they had done a little digging, those writers would know that it isn't Bernie Sanders' plan at all. Bernie is simply calling for what the architects of Medicare had in mind all along. That architect was actually Robert M. Ball, and he faced the same opposition we're hearing today when he and then-President Lyndon B. Johnson wanted to expand Medicare to cover all Americans.</p><p>Robert M. Ball was the Commissioner of Social Security through the administrations of three presidents: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon. He’d worked his way up in the Social Security Administration to become its head guy, spending 30 years of his life there, and then after he retired was tapped by Ronald Reagan to be on the commission that, in 1983, overhauled Social Security to keep it solvent through the Baby Boomer retirement phase. </p><p>Medicare was created as an add-on to Social Security, not as a standalone program, and so Ball was intimately involved in its creation, as Commissioner of Social Security throughout the Johnson years. He sat in on the meetings with members of the House and Senate, he was involved in the process of writing the legislation, and he was the man charged with helping implement it after LBJ signed it into law on July 30, 1965, and gave the first Medicare cards to Harry and Bess Truman. </p><p>Given his cat-bird seat during this entire process, Robert M. Ball felt it important to put his recollections before us, which he did in a 1995 article for the Health Affairs journal, titled "<a href="http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/reprint/14/4/62.pdf">Perspectives on Medicare</a>." “Because I was deeply involved in the development, enactment, and implementation of the [Medicare] program,” he wrote, “my recollections may be of use in rounding out the historical record.” His article was appropriately subtitled “What Medicare’s Architects Had in Mind.”</p><p>Perhaps the most important thing the drafters had in mind, Ball wrote, was that Medicare was the first step in a more far-reaching solution to America’s health care problem:</p><blockquote><p>For persons who are trying to understand what we were up to, the first broad point to keep in mind is that all of us who developed Medicare and fought for it – including Nelson Cruikshank and Lisbeth Schorr of the AFL-CIO and Wilbur Cohen, Alvin David, Bill Fullerton, Art Hess, Ida Merriam, Irv Wolkstein, myself, and others at the Social Security Administration – had been advocates for universal national health insurance.  We saw insurance for the elderly as a fallback position, which we advocated solely because it seemed to have the best chance politically.  Although the public record contains some explicit denials, we expected Medicare to be a first step toward universal national health insurance, perhaps with ‘Kiddicare’ as another step. </p></blockquote><p>In his paper, Ball talks about how national health insurance had actually once been advocated by the American Medical Association (AMA), whose leaders “were favorably impressed by the systems that had been established in Germany (1883) and Britain (1911), and several other countries around that time.”  </p><p>This was 1916, he notes, and “ironically, much of the American labor movement in 1916 was opposed” to national health insurance, as “Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), preferred collective bargaining to political solutions and feared that if workers began leaning on government, they might begin to look generally in that direction, rather than to unions, for help.”</p><p>A decade later, Ball notes, the AMA and AFL positions had reversed, and stayed that way up to and through the development of Medicare. The AMA was so vehemently against government-offered health insurance that it even hired Ronald Reagan and produced an LP record titled Ronald Reagan speaks out against Socialized Medicine which would be played at coffee klatches held by doctors’ wives to generate letters to Congress against the Medicare plan.</p><p>“The AMA’s opposition approached hysteria,” Ball wrote, noting that during the Truman administration the advocacy of the President for a national single-payer system so frightened the AMA that, “Members were assessed dues for the first time to create a $3.5 million war chest – very big money for the times – with which the association conducted an unparalleled campaign of vituperation against the advocates of national health insurance.” This was, he notes, “a warm-up for the later campaign against Medicare.”</p><p>So how did Medicare get passed? </p><p>Ball lays it out quite simply: old people were not profitable for the health insurance companies, so they were happy to get them off their rolls’ and onto the government’s. “[The elderly] used, on average, more than twice as many hospital days as younger persons used but had, on average, only about half as much income. Private insurers, who set premiums to cover current costs, had to charge the elderly much more, and the elderly could not afford the charges.”</p><p>This set the stage for Medicare, and the health insurance companies were at first enthusiastic about it. But in the final days of the development of the Medicare program, word got out that the people putting it together, including President Johnson, saw it as a program that could easily be modified to cover all Americans by the simple process of lowering the eligibility age, presumably incrementally over a decade or two. This pushed the insurance companies over the edge, prompting on their part a “fervent desire to keep government from penetrating further into the insurance business.” Ball adds, “Although most business groups opposed Medicare, the insurance industry was the AMA’s main ally.”</p><p>But because people knew and trusted Social Security, and this was just a health-benefit add-on to that existing program, it was easy to sell in Congress and to the American people. It was one of the most important legislative accomplishments of the Johnson administration.</p><p>It’s been over 50 years since Medicare was legislated into existence, and it was established with the idea that one day it would be just slightly tweaked to become the national single-payer health insurance program for the United States of America. Let’s fulfill the intended promise of Medicare now!</p> Fri, 26 Feb 2016 07:19:00 -0800 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1051460 at http://www.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 medicare bernie sanders Why Republicans Have Only Themselves to Blame If Trump Wins the Nomination http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/why-republicans-have-only-themselves-blame-if-trump-wins-nomination <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The GOP may have to adopt a few liberal philosophies to keep Trump from winning. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_312956195.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Republicans have only themselves to blame if Donald Trump wins the nomination. After the ostentatious billionaire won the New Hampshire primary, both Chris Christie and Carly Fiorina finally exited the contest for the Republican nomination. However, that still leaves five <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/chris-christies-gone-but-the-g-o-p-race-will-go-on-and-on" target="_blank">other contenders</a> in the race against Trump to lead the Grand Old Party. Now, the very principles Republicans stand on may be preventing the party from dealing with the loudmouth billionaire they fear. In fact, the GOP may have to adopt a few liberal philosophies to keep Trump from winning their <a href="http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/gop-primaries/264175-george-will-trump-nomination-would-destroy-gop" target="_blank">nomination</a>.</p><p>Republicans were the ones who embraced the rise of the Tea Party, and the idea that a long background in public service was somehow a negative for political candidates. As I'll explain in a moment, it these views helped Ted Cruz become a United States senator and the only candidate who appears to have a reasonable chance of taking on the frontrunner. And that's not a good thing in the minds of many Republicans.<br /><br />More importantly, back in 2010, it was the so-called conservatives who claimed that letting corporations and billionaires spend unlimited amounts of cash in our election cycle was a great win for free speech. That infamous Citizens United ruling has a lot to do with why the Grand Old Party has no grand plan to defeat the bombastic billionaire.<br /><br />To make matters worse for Republicans, changes to their primary election rules and a general belief in “rugged individualism” haven't helped clear the field so one candidate can take on Trump. Despite all his hateful rhetoric and lack of any policy more detailed than a bumper sticker, it is these core Republican beliefs that are backfiring on the party and keeping Donald Trump in the lead in nearly every national poll.</p><p>If I haven't convinced you, let me explain.</p><p><strong>First: The Ted Cruz Problem</strong><br /><br />After Barack Obama won the presidency in 2008, Republican voters and congresspeople alike went nuts. Sure, some of them claimed to dislike his liberal policies, but many of them simply couldn't believe there was a black guy in the White House. That's why the Koch brothers and various special interest groups started legitimizing that outrage and backing the new “Tea Party Patriot” rallies that were popping up around the nation.<br /><br />And when you combine a bunch of hard-right candidates with nearly a decade of Republican gerrymandering, you get an election like the 2010 midterms. All of a sudden, extreme views and inexperience became badges of honor among Republicans, and talking like an extremist was enough to make anyone popular among that crowd.<br /><br />Thus, all Ted Cruz had to do was adopt an extreme set of right-wing <a href="http://mic.com/articles/12210/tea-party-win-3-reasons-why-ted-cruz-won-the-texas-election#.JYzxXK9E0" target="_blank">talking points</a> to secure the support of Tea Party groups like Americans For Prosperity, despite his background as a Canadian-born, Ivy-league graduate with more than a decade of government experience.</p><p>Cruz sailed to victory in the U.S. Senate, where he promptly butted heads with fellow Republicans and party leaders alike over anything voters could perceive as compromise. In other words, everyone in the Senate pretty much hated his grandstanding and nastiness immediately—and <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/a-lot-of-people-just-dont-like-ted-cruz-how-come-thats-okay-with-him/2015/11/08/b55a0782-7758-11e5-bc80" target="_blank">they still do</a>.</p><p>Anyone with a computer will find no shortage of quotes by Republicans in Congress about how much they dislike the senator from Texas. So, the GOP is scrambling to find any candidate who can take on Trump, so long as that candidate is not Ted Cruz.</p><p>But that's not the only concern for Republicans.</p><p><strong>Second: Republican Math Meets Ayn Rand</strong><br /><br />In addition to the “anyone-but-that-guy” problem of <a href="http://nymag.com/daily/intelligencer/2015/12/why-everyone-in-congress-hates-ted-cruz.html" target="_blank">Ted Cruz</a>, Republicans also face the flip-side of the “rugged individual” values that they so often embrace. Thanks to the changes that the RNC made to their primary rules <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/20/us/new-party-rules-fail-to-speed-up-republican-race.html" target="_blank">in 2012</a>, the remaining candidates must put the party before themselves and drop out to keep Trump from winning.</p><p>Right now, with seven candidates in the race, none of the actual politicians on the stage can rise enough in the polls to compete with Donald Trump.</p><p>As long as there are at least four candidates splitting the primary vote, Donald Trump only needs about 30 percent of the vote to obtain enough delegates to win the Republican nomination. (Wonks can find the math <a href="http://election.princeton.edu/2016/01/13/full-simulation-of-gop-nomination-rules/" target="_blank">here</a>.) The other candidates could quickly increase the chances for someone else to win by dropping out of the race, but that would require them to put their party ahead of their potential for higher speaking fees.</p><p>Ironically, the rule changes were supposed to prevent the “Republicans-eating-their-own” scenario that occurred when Mitt Romney faced too many primary challengers!</p><p>And, as we all know, Republicans don't typically embrace progressive ideas like putting the needs of the many before the greed of a few. After all, they are the party who continues to worship at the altar of Ayn Rand's "<a href="https://www.aynrand.org/novels/virtue-of-selfishness" target="_blank">Virtue of Selfishness</a>," and sticking with a failing campaign in the face of complete party destruction is pretty much the epitome of selfishness.</p><p>But, believe it or not, it gets even worse for Republicans.<br /><br />The fact is, Ted Cruz, a crowded field and Ayn Rand's virtues are not even the RNC's biggest self-created problem. The real destroyer of the Republican Party will be the very campaign finance free-for-all they brought about by pushing for the 2010 Citizens United ruling.</p><p><strong>Third: Trump Loves Citizens United</strong><br /><br />On Jan. 21, 2010, in a 5-to-4 decision with the five Republican justices on the winning side, the Supreme Court ruled that it is unconstitutional for Congress to pass or the president to sign into law any restrictions on the “right” of a corporation to pour money into political campaigns, so long as the money isn’t directly given to the politicians, their campaigns or their parties.<br /><br />Remember, the Justices shaped their arguments around corporate campaign donations because super PACs hadn't yet taken over as the primary means by which billionaires could control the political process.<br /><br />The majority decision, written by Justice Kennedy, was quite explicit in saying that the government has no right to limit corporate power or corporate “free speech.” Kennedy began this line of reasoning by positing, “Premised on mistrust of governmental power, the First Amendment stands against attempts to disfavor certain subjects or viewpoints.”</p><p>It sounds reasonable. He even noted, sounding almost like something from a Martin Luther King Jr or JFK speech, that:</p><blockquote>By taking the right to speak from some and giving it to others, the Government deprives the disadvantaged person or class of the right to use speech to strive to establish worth, standing, and respect for the speaker’s voice. The Government may not by these means deprive the public of the right and privilege to determine for itself what speech and speakers are worthy of consideration.</blockquote><p>But who is that “disadvantaged person or class” of whom Kennedy was speaking? He lays it out bluntly (the parts in single quotation marks are where he is quoting from previous Supreme Court decisions): “The Court has recognized that First Amendment protection extends to corporations....Under that rationale of these precedents, political speech does not lose First Amendment protection ‘simply because its source is a corporation.’”</p><p>In his very eloquent and pointed dissent, Stevens even waxed philosophical, asking a series of questions for which there couldn’t possibly be any clear or obvious answers given the Roberts court’s decision:</p><blockquote>It is an interesting question “who” is even speaking when a business corporation places an advertisement that endorses or attacks a particular candidate. Presumably it is not the customers or employees, who typically have no say in such matters. It cannot realistically be said to be the shareholders, who tend to be far removed from the day-to-day decisions of the firm and whose political preferences may be opaque to management. Perhaps the officers or directors of the corporation have the best claim to be the ones speaking, except their fiduciary duties generally prohibit them from using corporate funds for personal ends. Some individuals associated with the corporation must make the decision to place the ad, but the idea that these individuals are thereby fostering their self-expression or cultivating their critical faculties is fanciful.</blockquote><p>In other words, Justice Stevens worried about the rich and powerful individuals who could direct a corporation to support a particular idea or candidate. And now we know that the “who” Justice Stevens was curious about turned out to be billionaires and the super PACs they use to buy each candidate.</p><p>And, thanks to that Citizens United decision, and the super PACs and billionaires that came along with the ruling, the basic principle that a campaign ends when it runs out of money <a href="http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/08/citizens-united-2016-121739" target="_blank">no longer applies</a>.</p><p>Let's be real: Ben Carson and probably Jeb Bush know they will never be president, but as long as they've got a billionaire and a super PAC, they can just keep on campaigning. Unfortunately for Republicans and the rest of us who are sick of listening to Donald Trump, Justice Stevens could not have guessed that a foul-mouthed, fascist billionaire would take the party by storm any more than Reince Pribus could have when he said his new primary rules marked “a historic day” <a href="http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2014/01/24/gop-adopts-changes-to-2016-presidential-primary-process/" target="_blank">for his party</a>.</p><p>If only they knew then what we know now.</p><p><strong>Solution: Get a Little Liberal</strong></p><p>As it stands today, the Republicans are reaping the not-so-sweet rewards of fighting for more extremism, more political maneuvering and a boatload more money in our political process. If they really want to take on Donald Trump, all they have to do is adopt a few liberal views. </p><p>To weed out Tea Party lawmakers like Ted Cruz, Republicans must stop the hard-right extremism that helped him get elected. To strengthen an establishment candidate, a few of the also-rans must drop out, stop working for higher speaking fees and put the needs of their party before their own greed. </p><p>And to restore the very basic logic that a candidate should stand an actual chance of winning, Republicans simply need to join progressives in our calls to get money out of the political process. If each candidate didn't have their own pet billionaire (or each billionaire have their own pet candidate, if we're being honest), the field would narrow and someone with some actual government experience could quite possibly take the lead.</p><p>It's simple. If the Republican Party wants a candidate who can compete with Trump, all they have to do is embrace a few liberal philosophies. I'm sure progressives everywhere are waiting to welcome them into the folds.</p> Sun, 14 Feb 2016 11:48:00 -0800 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1050664 at http://www.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 gop trump republicans Bernie’s 'Political Revolution' Is Actually Happening, Although the Corporate Media Won’t Tell You That http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/bernies-political-revolution-actually-happening-although-corporate-media-wont-tell-you <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Don&#039;t rely on the media to tell you what&#039;s going on.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-08-28_at_10.26.19_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-7f9147db-e0dd-9087-0933-1faa2d1eb156">Bernie Sanders has made voter-turnout history, getting about a third more votes than any other primary candidate in the history of New Hampshire primaries, but much of our media is reporting the opposite; that it’s no big deal what he’s accomplishing.</p><p dir="ltr">Rachel Maddow rolled out the latest confused bit of reporting on the evening of Friday, February 12th. Whether this ended up on the air as a Maddow-producer “brilliant idea” or was suggested by the Clinton campaign is unknown, but the entire piece was confounding.</p><p dir="ltr">Rachel started by saying that the rationale for Bernie’s becoming president and actually getting something done (when Obama had such difficulty) is that Bernie’s mobilizing huge numbers of new and energized voters.  She showed a bunch of examples of his talking about his “political revolution” and how he’s bringing new people into politics.</p><p dir="ltr">Then she dropped the anvil, as she does so well.  </p><p dir="ltr">It turns out that fewer people showed up to vote Democratic in New Hampshire and Iowa this year than they did in Obama’s 2008!  If that’s the case – and it is – then how could Bernie possibly claim that he’s “energizing” “new” people?  He must be running a con on us, or he’s just a deluded old man who dreams of revolution but nobody’s really showing up.  </p><p dir="ltr">Time to doubt both Bernie and his ideas, right?</p><p dir="ltr">After all, as Rachel <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DVlsgwcMbPE">points out</a>, “40,000 fewer people voted in this year’s New Hampshire Democratic primary than did in 2008,” she said.  Adding, for emphasis, the three-word sentence: “Forty thousand less!”</p><p dir="ltr">“And it was the same story in Iowa last week,” Rachel continued.  “Voter turnout was a record for Republicans in Iowa, but on the Democratic side it was down.  Iowa voter turnout on the Democratic side was DOWN from 2008!”</p><p dir="ltr">Clearly Bernie’s campaign is running a scam, right?  The entire rationale for his candidacy is built on sand.  His “revolution” isn’t happening so far, so why might it happen later? Time to doubt that Bernie’s claims of political change are even possible, much less reasonable.</p><p dir="ltr">However…</p><p dir="ltr">Rachel missed a few facts – something unusual for her usually brilliant political analysis.  </p><p dir="ltr">First, Bernie’s main premise wasn’t that he could get more people to vote for him (although he’s asserted that and is actually doing it, as I’ll get to in a moment).  His main premise is that, unlike President Obama, he will ask the American people to be very, very, very involved in the political process.  He’s talked over and over about how if, as president, when he’s trying to get meaningful legislation through, he’ll invite millions of people to come to DC to let Congress know what they think.</p><p dir="ltr">But more importantly, in this story (played out in other media as well as MSNBC) the numbers were passed along to us from their source in an astonishingly confusing fashion, given their context.</p><p dir="ltr">The 2016 turnout on the Republican side was bigger than in 2008 in both NH and Iowa – because, in large part, the Republicans were running more candidates this year than last cycle.  Democrats, on the other hand, are running fewer candidates.</p><p dir="ltr">In 2008, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich, and Bill Richardson all had on-the-ground get-out-the-vote (GOTV) operations running in both New Hampshire and Iowa.  This year, instead of seven well-funded, well-staffed GOTV operations running in those states, there were only two: Clinton and Sanders.  (O’Malley ended his campaign after Iowa, and thus didn’t even show up in New Hampshire’s election in any meaningful way.)</p><p dir="ltr">And looking at votes by candidate (something that Maddow astonishingly ignored), Bernie, with 151,000 votes in New Hampshire, shattered the prior record of 112,000 in 2008, a record set by none other than Hillary Clinton.  Bernie got more votes this year in New Hampshire than Al Gore and Bill Bradley got combined in the 2000 NH primary.  </p><p dir="ltr">In other words, Bernie is turning out voters, just as he said he could. In fact, as Jon Orlin <a href="https://medium.com/@jorlin[email protected]ential-primary-561584a8357c#.oru11d1t8">pointed out</a> at Medium.com:</p><p dir="ltr">B<em>esides winning the New Hampshire Democratic Primary by a wider than expected margin, Bernie Sanders just made history.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>He won the most votes ever in a New Hampshire Primary. That’s not just for the Democratic Primary in New Hampshire. He won more votes than any candidate in any Republican New Hampshire Primary, too.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>Sanders got 31% more votes than the previous record-setter, John McCain in 2000. He also got more votes than Hillary Clinton in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012. It is worth pointing out that all those candidates didn’t become President.</em></p><p dir="ltr">Orlin then cites the statistics in context:</p><p dir="ltr">Primary winners, since 1952 when the New Hampshire primary gained its importance: (Source: Wikipedia)</p><p dir="ltr">New Hampshire Democratic Primary Winners</p><p dir="ltr">2016: Bernie Sanders: 151,584</p><p dir="ltr">2012: Barack Obama: 49,080</p><p dir="ltr">2008: Hillary Clinton: 112,404</p><p dir="ltr">2004: John Kerry: 84,390</p><p dir="ltr">2000: Al Gore: 76,897</p><p dir="ltr">1996: Bill Clinton: 76,797</p><p dir="ltr">1992: Paul Tsongas: 55,663</p><p dir="ltr">1988: Michael Dukakis: 44,112</p><p dir="ltr">1984: Gary Hart: 37,702</p><p dir="ltr">1980: Jimmy Carter: 52,648</p><p dir="ltr">1976: Jimmy Carter: 23,373</p><p dir="ltr">1972: Edmund Muskie: 41,235</p><p dir="ltr">1968: Lyndon Johnson: 27,520</p><p dir="ltr">1964: Lyndon Johnson: 29,317</p><p dir="ltr">1960: John F. Kennedy: 43,372</p><p dir="ltr">1956: Estes Kefauver: 21,701</p><p dir="ltr">1952: Estes Kefauver: 19,800</p><br /><p dir="ltr">    Which means that Bernie’s claims of pulling off a political revolution – even at this early point in time – are looking good, particularly considering how anomalous 2008 was (as another “change” year election).  </p><p dir="ltr">    As my colleague Dylan Hydes, an attorney, fellow member of the Voqal board of directors (<a href="http://voqal.org/about-us/leadership/">http://voqal.org/about-us/leadership/</a>), and blogger at <a href="https://www.thebluebros.com">thebluebros.com</a>, wrote in a note to me: </p><p dir="ltr"><em>    In Iowa and New Hampshire, 2008 was a statistical anomaly, which makes it a very poor baseline. Democrats brought 171,000 voters to the Iowa caucus this year and 251,000 to the Democratic primary in New Hampshire. Both of these numbers are significantly higher than 2000, 2004, or any other prior year.</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>And if we are going to use 2008 as a baseline, remember what happened in the 2008 general (60% voter turnout in the general, Dems wins the White House, Dems win huge majorities in Senate and House).</em></p><p dir="ltr"><em>So if Bernie can get Democratic turnout near those levels (which he is already doing despite having only one opponent), Dems have a very good election night in November.</em></p><p dir="ltr">Bernie’s candidacy has made history, regardless of where it goes from here.  The revolution may not be as well televised as Sanders fans would like, but it is certainly rolling ahead at full steam with every possibility of taking the White House and taking back, like in 2008, both chambers of Congress.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Resource Links:</strong></p>2016 - NH Primary Numbers - <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election_in_New_Hampshire,_2016" target="_blank">https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election_in_New_Hampshire,_2016</a>2012 - NH Primary Numbers - <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election_in_New_Hampshire,_2012" target="_blank">https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election_in_New_Hampshire,_2012</a>2008 - NH Primary Numbers - <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election_in_New_Hampshire,_2008" target="_blank">https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election_in_New_Hampshire,_2008</a>2004 - NH Primary Numbers - <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election_in_New_Hampshire,_2004" target="_blank">https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election_in_New_Hampshire,_2004</a>2000 - NH Primary Numbers - <a href="http://www.fec.gov/pubrec/fe2000/2000presprim.htm" target="_blank">http://www.fec.gov/pubrec/fe2000/2000presprim.htm</a>Pre-2000 - NH Primary Numbers - <a href="https://medium.com/@jorlin[email protected]ential-primary-561584a8357c#.rzgs1tlgp" target="_blank">https://medium.com/@jorlin[email protected]ential-primary-561584a8357c#.rzgs1tlgp</a> 2016 - Iowa Caucus Numbers - <a href="http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2016/02/05/probing_for_clues_in_the_iowa_caucus_numbers_129564.html" target="_blank">http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2016/02/05/probing_for_clues_in_the_iowa_caucus_numbers_129564.html</a>2012 - Iowa Caucus Numbers - N/A for Dems (Obama ran uncontested)2008 - Iowa Caucus Numbers - <a href="http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/elections/presidential/caucus/2016/02/02/caucus-turnout-robust-record-setting-and-surprising/79626128/" target="_blank">http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/news/elections/presidential/caucus/2016/02/02/caucus-turnout-robust-record-setting-and-surprising/79626128/</a>2004 - Iowa Caucus Numbers - <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/news/iowa-caucuses-a-challenge-for-pollsters/" target="_blank">http://www.cbsnews.com/news/iowa-caucuses-a-challenge-for-pollsters/</a>2000 - Iowa Caucus Numbers - <a href="http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2011/12/09/turnout_is_critical_variable_in_iowa_caucuses.html" target="_blank">http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2011/12/09/turnout_is_critical_variable_in_iowa_caucuses.html</a>1996 - Iowa Caucus Numbers - N/A for Dems (Clinton ran uncontested)1992 - Iowa Caucus Numbers - <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election_in_Iowa,_1992" target="_blank">https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_election_in_Iowa,_1992</a><p> </p> Sun, 14 Feb 2016 09:35:00 -0800 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1050660 at http://www.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 bernie bernie sanders election The Battle Between Populist Sanders and Establishment Clinton Is as Old as the Country Itself http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/battle-between-populist-sanders-and-establishment-clinton-old-country-itself <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">What the political battles of the late 18th century can teach us about people power.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/sanders_jefferson.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Right now, at both ends of our political spectrum, there is a battle being waged between We, The People, and the rich and powerful, aka "The Establishment." And, while there is a debate to be had about who does or does not represent each category right now, the battle between the people and power is as old as our republic.</p><p>One of the early famous “establishment” debates took place between Thomas Jefferson, who believed We, The People should control our own destiny, and John Adams' Federalists, who believed that the “rabble” could not be trusted to govern ourselves. Much like the establishment debate today, our founders disagreed over banks, debt, and corporate regulations.  (For wonks of that era, I wrote part of a book about this, titled <em>The American Revolution of 1800, </em>co-written by Dan Sisson.)</p><p>That debate shaped our nation for the next two centuries. And, the outcome is reflected in the Bill of Rights we still hold dear today.</p><p dir="ltr">After the Revolutionary War was over and the Constitution was being worked out and presented to the states for ratification, Thomas Jefferson (then living in Paris as our envoy to France) turned his attention to what he felt was a terrible inadequacy in the new Constitution: it didn’t explicitly stipulate the natural rights of the new nation’s citizens, it allowed the army to continue to exist during times of peace, and it didn’t protect against the rise of commercial monopolies like the East India Company.</p><p dir="ltr">On Dec. 20, 1787, Jefferson wrote to James Madison about his concerns regarding the Constitution. He said bluntly that it was deficient in several areas:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">I will now tell you what I do not like. First, the omission of a bill of rights, providing clearly, and without the aid of sophism, for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, protection against standing armies, restriction of monopolies, the eternal and unremitting force of the habeas corpus laws, and trials by jury in all matters of fact triable by the laws of the land, and not by the laws of nations.</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Such a bill protecting natural persons from out-of-control governments or commercial monopolies shouldn’t be limited to America, Jefferson believed. “Let me add,” he summarized, “that a bill of rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular; and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference.”</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">In 1788 Jefferson wrote about his concerns to several people. In a letter to Alexander Donald, on February 7, he defined the items that should be in a bill of rights. “By a declaration of rights, I mean one which shall stipulate freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of commerce against monopolies, trial by juries in all cases, no suspensions of the habeas corpus, no standing armies. These are fetters against doing evil, which no honest government should decline.”</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Jefferson kept pushing for a law, written into the Constitution as an amendment, which would prevent companies from growing so large that they could dominate entire industries or have the power to influence the people’s government.</p><p dir="ltr">On Feb. 12, 1788, he wrote to Mr. Dumas about his pleasure that the U.S. Constitution was about to be ratified, but he also expressed his concerns about what was missing from the Constitution. He was pushing hard for his own state to reject the Constitution if it didn’t protect people from the dangers he foresaw:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">With respect to the new Government, nine or ten States will probably have accepted by the end of this month. The others may oppose it. Virginia, I think, will be of this number. Besides other objections of less moment, she [Virginia] will insist on annexing a bill of rights to the new Constitution, i.e. a bill wherein the Government shall declare that, 1. Religion shall be free; 2. Printing presses free; 3. Trials by jury preserved in all cases; 4. No monopolies in commerce; 5. No standing army. Upon receiving this bill of rights, she will probably depart from her other objections; and this bill is so much to the interest of all the States, that I presume they will offer it, and thus our Constitution be amended, and our Union closed by the end of the present year.</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">By midsummer of 1788, things were moving along, and Jefferson was helping his close friend James Madison write the Bill of Rights. On the last day of July, he wrote to Madison:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">I sincerely rejoice at the acceptance of our new constitution by nine States. It is a good canvass, on which some strokes only want retouching. What these are, I think are sufficiently manifested by the general voice from north to south, which calls for a bill of rights. It seems pretty generally understood, that this should go to juries, habeas corpus, standing armies, printing, religion, and monopolies.</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">The following year, on March 13, he wrote to Francis Hopkinson about continuing objection to monopolies:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">You say that I have been dished up to you as an anti-federalist, and ask me if it be just. My opinion was never worthy enough of notice to merit citing; but since you ask it, I will tell it to you. I am not a federalist....What I disapproved from the first moment also, was the want of a bill of rights, to guard liberty against the legislative as well as the executive branches of the government; that is to say, to secure freedom in religion, freedom of the press, freedom from monopolies, freedom from unlawful imprisonment, freedom from a permanent military, and a trial by jury, in all cases determinable by the laws of the land.</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">All of Jefferson’s wishes, except two, would soon come true. But not all of his views were shared universally.</p><p dir="ltr">Shortly after George Washington became the first president of the United States in 1789, his secretary of the treasury, Alexander Hamilton, proposed that the federal government incorporate a national bank and assume state debts left over from the Revolutionary War. Congressman James Madison and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson saw this as an inappropriate role for the federal government, representing the potential concentration of too much money and power.</p><p dir="ltr">The disagreement over the bank and assuming the states’ debt nearly tore apart the new government and led to the creation—by Hamilton, Washington, and Vice President John Adams — of the Federalist Party.</p><p dir="ltr">Several factions arose in opposition to the Federalists, broadly referred to as the anti-federalists, including two groups who called themselves Democrats and Republicans. Jefferson pulled them together by 1794 into the Democratic Republican Party (which dropped the word Republican from its name in the early 1830s, today known as the Democratic Party, the world’s oldest and longest-lived political party), united in their opposition to the Federalists’ ideas of a strong central government that was run by the wealthy and could grant the power to incorporate a national bank to bestow benefits to favored businesses through the use of tariffs and trade regulation.</p><p dir="ltr">The powerful Federalists kept the protection from monopolies out of our Bill of Rights, and the rise of corporate power began. Arguably, this helped the wealthy keep control of one branch of government for another century, and it kept Jefferson and Adams debating the issue long after each had been president.</p><p dir="ltr">On Oct. 28, 1813, Jefferson wrote to John Adams about their earlier disagreements over whether a government should be run by the wealthy and powerful few (the pseudo-aristoi) or a group of the most wise and capable people (the “natural aristocracy”), elected from the larger class of all Americans, including working people:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">The artificial aristocracy is a mischievous ingredient in government, and provision should be made to prevent its ascendancy. On the question, what is the best provision, you and I differ; but we differ as rational friends, using the free exercise of our own reason, and mutually indulging its errors. You think it best to put the pseudo-aristoi into a separate chamber of legislation [the Senate], where they may be hindered from doing mischief by their coordinate branches, and where, also, they may be a protection to wealth against the agrarian and plundering enterprises of the majority of the people. I think that to give them power in order to prevent them from doing mischief, is arming them for it, and increasing instead of remedying the evil.</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Adams and the Federalists were wary of the common person (who Adams referred to as “the rabble”), and many subscribed to the Calvinist notion that wealth was a sign of certification or blessing from above and a certain minimum level of morality. Because the Senate of the United States was appointed by the states (not elected by the voters, until 1913) and made up entirely of wealthy men, it was mostly on the Federalist side. Jefferson and the Democratic Republicans disagreed strongly with the notion of a Senate composed of the wealthy and powerful.</p><p dir="ltr">“Mischief may be done negatively as well as positively,” Jefferson wrote to Adams in the next paragraph of that 1813 letter, still arguing for a directly elected Senate:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">Of this, a cabal in the Senate of the United States has furnished many proofs. Nor do I believe them necessary to protect the wealthy; because enough of these will find their way into every branch of the legislation, to protect themselves....I think the best remedy is exactly that provided by all our constitutions, to leave to the citizens the free election and separation of the aristoi from the pseudo-aristoi, of the wheat from the chaff. In general they will elect the really good and wise. In some instances, wealth may corrupt, and birth blind them; but not in sufficient degree to endanger the society.</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Jefferson’s vision of a more egalitarian Senate—directly elected by the people instead of by state legislators—finally became law in 1913 with the passage of the Seventeenth Amendment, promoted by the Populist Movement and passed on a wave of public disgust with the corruption of the political process by giant corporations.</p><p dir="ltr">Almost all of Jefferson’s visions for a Bill of Rights—all except “freedom from monopolies in commerce” and his concern about a permanent army— were incorporated into the actual Bill of Rights, which James Madison shepherded through Congress and was ratified on Dec. 15, 1791.</p><p dir="ltr">But the Federalists fought hard to keep “freedom from monopolies” out of the Constitution. And they won. The result was a boon for very large businesses in America in the 19th and 20th centuries, with big companies now even using trade deals like the TPP to expand their monopolies.</p><p dir="ltr">Thus began the American struggle to balance the power of corporations and We, The People. From the very moment our founders signed the Bill of Rights to the debates now about the future direction of America, we have witnessed Jefferson's concerns become reality. And we've seen the corruption, undue influence and “mischief” he warned of continue to lie at the heart of our political debates.</p><p dir="ltr">Once again we find ourselves on the edge of a possible turning point in the era of monopolistic power, and our decision in the voting booth may well shape the next 200 years of our nation.</p> Mon, 08 Feb 2016 11:11:00 -0800 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1050341 at http://www.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 sanders One Thing Donald Trump Is Actually Right About When It Comes to America's Economic Problems http://www.alternet.org/economy/thom-hartmann-one-thing-donald-trump-actually-right-about-when-it-comes-americas-economic <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Our businesses will never compete with state-backed businesses in other countries if we don&#039;t impose a tariff on the products they ship to our shores. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1377532734992-1-0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Last week's sixth Republican debate featured the usual lies, misstatements and misrepresentations on subjects ranging from basic science to the imaginary plot by the Supreme Court to confiscate your guns. But we actually heard the truth on one subject, and believe it or not, it came from Donald Trump: The United States needs to enact tariffs to protect our jobs and our economy.</p><p>During an exchange with his Republican rivals, Donald Trump said, “You can't deal with China without [a] tariff. They do it to us. We don't do it. It's not fair trade.” Even the right-wing moderators quickly tried to dispute the Donald, but <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/donald-trump-china-tariff-debate-2016-1">on this one point</a>, he happens to be exactly right. </p><p>Our businesses will never compete with state-backed businesses in other countries if we don't impose a tariff on the products that they ship to our shores. Our workers will never stand a chance against the slave-wage laborers in developing nations. That's exactly why our founding fathers implemented tariffs at the birth of our nation, and those tariffs helped American manufacturers become the envy of the world for the next two centuries.</p><p>In fact, our founders believed so strongly that American manufacturers were vital to the success of our young nation, that our first President, George Washington, refused to be inaugurated in a suit that wasn't made by American workers. </p><p>On April 14, 1789, George Washington was out walking through the fields at Mount Vernon, his home in Virginia, when Charles Thomson, the secretary of the Continental Congress, showed up on horseback. Thomson had a letter for Washington from the president pro tempore of the new, constitutionally created United States Senate, telling Washington that he’d just been elected president and the inauguration was set for April 30 in the nation’s capital, New York City. </p><p>This created two problems for Washington.</p><p>The first was saying goodbye to his 82-year-old mother, which the 57-year-old Washington did that night. She gave him her blessing and told him it was the last time he’d see her alive, as she was gravely ill. Indeed, she died before he returned from New York.</p><p>The second problem was finding a suit of clothes made in America. For that he sent a courier to his old friend and fellow general from the American Revolutionary War, Henry Knox.</p><p>Washington couldn’t find a suit made in America because in the years prior to the American Revolution, the British East India Company (whose tea was thrown into Boston Harbor by outraged colonists after the Tea Act of 1773 gave the world’s largest transnational corporation a giant tax break) controlled the manufacture and the transportation of a whole range of goods, including fine clothing. Cotton and wool could be grown and sheared in the colonies, but it had to be sent to England to be turned into clothes.</p><p>This was a routine policy for England, and it is why until India achieved its independence in 1947 Mahatma Gandhi (who was assassinated a year later) sat with his spinning wheel for his lectures and spun daily in his own home. It was, like his Salt March, a protest against the colonial practices of England and an entreaty to his fellow Indians to make their own clothes to gain independence from British companies and institutions.</p><p>Fortunately for George Washington, an American clothing company had been established on April 28, 1783, in Hartford, Connecticut, by a man named Daniel Hinsdale, and it produced high-quality woolen and cotton clothing as well as items made from imported silk. It was to Hinsdale’s company that Knox turned, and he helped Washington get—in time for his inauguration two weeks later—a nice, but not excessively elegant, brown American-made suit. (He wore British black later for the celebrations and the most famous painting.)</p><p>When Washington became president in 1789, most of America’s personal and industrial products of any significance were manufactured in England or in its colonies. Washington asked his first Treasury secretary, Alexander Hamilton, what could be done about that, and Hamilton came up with an 11-point plan to foster American manufacturing, which he presented to Congress in 1791. </p><p>By 1793 most of its points had either been made into law by Congress or formulated into policy by either President Washington or the various states, which put the country on a path of developing its industrial base and generating the largest source of federal revenue for <a href="https://archive.org/details/alexanderhamilt00caregoog">more than 100 years</a>.</p><p>First among his 11-points were the “duties on foreign articles"—aka tariffs—which he said should be imposed to protect American manufacturers. Hamilton's decision to list duties as the first point in his plan makes clear his views on their importance. Without tariffs to protect American goods and services, Hamilton's vision would not have been such a success.</p><p>His strategic proposals built the greatest industrial powerhouse the world had ever seen and, after more than 200 successful years, were abandoned only during the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, and Bill Clinton (and remain abandoned to this day). And, the Trans Pacific Partnership will be the final nail in the coffin of Alexander Hamilton's plan. </p><p>Donald Trump may be wrong on just about everything, but he's absolutely right about tariffs. Whether that's because of his incredible business sense or simple a proverbial stopped clock, I'll let you decide.</p><p>---------</p><p>For those who would like to know more about our history, and for the Republican Presidential candidates who continue to deify the founding fathers as often as they misquote them, here is Hamilton's 11-point plan on American Manufacturing.</p><p><strong>Alexander Hamilton’s 11-point Plan for “American Manufactures”</strong></p><p>A full view having now been taken of the inducements to the promotion of manufactures in the United States, accompanied with an examination of the principal objections which are commonly urged in opposition, it is proper, in the next place, to consider the means by which it may be effected.…</p><p>In order to a better judgment of the means proper to be resorted to by the United States, it will be of use to advert to those which have been employed with success in other countries. The principal of these are—</p><p><strong>I. Protecting duties—or duties on those foreign articles which are the rivals of the domestic ones intended to be encouraged.</strong></p><p>Duties of this nature evidently amount to a virtual bounty on the domestic fabrics, since by enhancing the charges on foreign articles, they enable the national manufacturers to undersell all their foreign competitors.…[I]t has the additional recommendation of being a resource of revenue. Indeed, all the duties imposed on imported articles, though with an exclusive view to revenue, have the effect in contemplation; and, except where they fill on raw materials, wear a beneficent aspect towards the manufacturers of the country.</p><p><strong>II. Prohibitions of rival articles, or duties equivalent to prohibitions.</strong></p><p>This is another and an efficacious mean of encouraging national manufactures;…Of duties equivalent to prohibitions, there are examples in the laws of the United States…but they are not numerous.…[I]t might almost be said, by the principles of distributive justice; certainly by the duty of endeavoring to secure to their own citizens a reciprocity of advantages.</p><p><strong>III. Prohibitions of the exportation of the materials of manufactures.</strong></p><p>The desire of securing a cheap and plentiful supply for the national workmen, and, where the article is either peculiar to the country, or of peculiar quality there, the jealousy of enabling foreign workmen to rival those of the nation with its own materials, are the leading motives to this species of regulation.…It is seen at once, that its immediate operation is to abridge the demand and keep down the price of the produce of some other branch of industry, generally speaking, of agriculture, to the prejudice of those who carry it on; and though if it be really essential to the prosperity of any very important national manufacture, it may happen that those who are injured in the first instance, may be eventually indemnified, by the superior steadiness of an extensive domestic market depending on that prosperity: yet in a matter, in which there is so much room for nice and difficult combinations, in which such opposite considerations combat each other, prudence seems to dictate, that the expedient in question ought to be indulged with a sparing hand.</p><p><strong>IV. Pecuniary bounties.</strong></p><p>This has been found one of the most efficacious means of encouraging manufactures, and it is in some views the best; though it has not yet been practised upon by the government of the United States, (unless the allowance on the exportion of dried and pickled fish and salted meat, could be considered as a bounty,) and though it is less favoured by public opinion than some other modes, its advantages are these:</p><ol><li><p>It is a species of encouragement more positive and direct than any other, and for that very reason, has a more immediate tendency to stimulate and uphold new enterprises, increasing the chances of profit, and diminishing the risks of loss, in the first attempts.</p></li></ol><ol start="2"><li><p>It avoids the inconvenience of a temporary augmentation of price, which is incident to some other modes, or it produces it to a less degree; either by making no addition to the charges on the rival foreign article, as in the case of protecting duties, or by making a smaller addition. The first happens when the fund for the bounty is derived from a different object (which may or may not increase the price of some other article, according to the nature of that object); the second when the fund is derived from the same or a similar object of foreign manufacture. One per cent. duty on the foreign article converted into a bounty on the domestic, will have an equal effect with a duty of two per cent. exclusive of such bounty; and the price of the foreign commodity is liable to be raised, in the one case, in the proportion of one per cent; in the other, in that of two per cent. Indeed, the bounty, when drawn from another source, is calculated to promote a reduction of price; because, without laying any new charge on the foreign article, it serves to introduce a competition with it, and to increase the total quantity of the article in the market.</p></li></ol><ol start="3"><li><p>Bounties have not, like high protecting duties, a tendency to produce scarcity.…</p></li></ol><p><strong>4. Bounties are sometimes not only the best, but the only proper expedient, for uniting the encouragement of a new object.…</strong></p><p>The true way to conciliate these two interests, is to lay a duty on foreign manufactures, of the material, the growth of which is desired to be encouraged, and to apply the produce of that duty by way of bounty, either upon the production of the material itself, or upon its manufacture at home, or upon both.…</p><p>[P]ecuniary bounties are in most cases indispensable to the introduction of a new branch.…Bounties are especially essential, in regard to articles, upon which those foreigners who have been accustomed to supply a country, are in the practice of granting them.</p><p>The continuance of bounties on manufactures long established, must almost always be of questionable policy; because a presumption would arise in every such case, that there were natural and inherent impediments to success But in new undertakings, they are as justifiable, as they are oftentimes necessary.…</p><p><strong>V. Premiums.</strong></p><p>These are of a nature allied to bounties, though distinguishable from them in some important features.</p><p>Bounties are applicable to the whole quantity of an article produced or manufactured, or exported, and involve a correspondent expense—Premiums serve to reward some particular excellence or superiority, some extraordinary exertion or skill, and are dispensed only in a small number of cases. But their effect is to stimulate general effort.…</p><p><strong>VI. The exemption of the [raw] materials of manufactures from duty.</strong></p><p>The policy of that exemption, as a general rule, particularly in reference to new establishments, is obvious.…Of a nature, bearing some affinity to that policy, is the regulation which exempts from duty the tools and implements, as well as the books, clothes, and household furniture of foreign artists, who come to reside in the United States; an advantage already secured to them by the laws of the Union, and which it is, in every view, proper to continue.</p><p><strong>VII. Drawbacks of the duties which are imposed on the materials of manufactures.…</strong></p><p>[S]uch drawbacks are familiar in countries which systematically pursue the business of manufactures; which furnishes an argument for the observance of a similar policy in the United States; and the idea has been adopted by the laws of the Union, in the instances of salt and molasses. It is believed that it will be found advantageous to extend it to some other articles.</p><p><strong>VIII. The encouragement of new intentions and discoveries, at home, and of the introduction into the United States of such as may have been made in other countries; particularly, those which relate to machinery.</strong></p><p>This is among the most useful and unexceptionable of the aids which can be given to manufactures. The usual means of that encouragement are pecuniary rewards, and, for a time, exclusive privileges. The first must be employed, according to the occasion, and the utility of the invention, or discovery. For the last, so far as respects “authors and inventors,” provision has been made by law.…</p><p>It is customary with manufacturing nations to prohibit, under severe penalties, the exportation of implements and machines, which they have either invented or improved.…As far as prohibitions tend to prevent foreign competitors from deriving the benefit of the improvements made at home, they tend to increase the advantages of those by whom they may have been introduced; and operate as an encouragement to exertion.</p><p><strong>IX. Judicious regulations for the inspection of manufactured commodities.</strong></p><p>This is not among the least important of the means by which the prosperity of manufactures may be promoted. It is, indeed, in many cases one of the most essential. Contributing to prevent frauds upon consumers at home, and exporters to foreign countries—to improve the quality and preserve the character of the national manufactures…</p><p><strong>X. The facilitating of pecuniary remittances from place to place—[well-regulated banking]</strong></p><p>Is a point of considerable moment to trade in general, and to manufactures in particular; by rendering more easy the purchase of raw materials and provisions, and the payment for manufactured supplies. A general circulation of bank paper, which is to be expected from the institution lately established, will be a most valuable mean to this end.</p><p><strong>XI. The facilitating of the transportation of commodities. [transportation infrastructure]</strong></p><p>Improvements favouring this object intimately concern all the domestic interests of a community; but they may without impropriety be mentioned as having an important relation to manufactures. There is perhaps scarcely any thing, which has been better calculated to assist the manufacturers of Great Britain, than the meliorations of the public roads of that kingdom, and the great progress which has been of late made in opening canals. Of the former, the United States stand much in need…</p><p>These examples, it is to be hoped, will stimulate the exertions of the government and citizens of every state. There can certainly be no object, more worthy of the cares of the local administrations; and it were to be wished, that there was no doubt of the power of the national government to lend its direct aid, on a comprehensive plan. This is one of those improvements, which could be prosecuted with more efficacy by the whole, than by any part or parts of the Union.…</p><p>The following remarks are sufficiently judicious and pertinent to deserve a literal quotation: “Good roads, canals, and navigable rivers, by diminishing the expense of carriage, put the remote parts of a country more nearly upon a level with those in the neighborhood of a town. They are upon that account, the greatest of all improvements.”…</p><p>It may confidently be affirmed, that there is scarcely any thing, which has been devised, better calculated to excite a general spirit of improvement, than the institutions of this nature. The are truly invaluable.</p><p>In countries where there is great private wealth, much may be effected by the voluntary contributions of patriotic individuals; but in a community situated like that of the United States, the public purse must supply the deficiency of private resource. In what can it be so useful as in prompting and improving the efforts of industry?</p><p>All which is humbly submitted.</p><p>ALEXANDER HAMILTON,<br />Secretary of the Treasury</p><p><em>Portions of this article contain material that you can also <a href="http://www.amazon.com/dp/1609940296/">find in my book</a>, </em>Rebooting the American Dream<em>.</em></p> Mon, 18 Jan 2016 09:12:00 -0800 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1049127 at http://www.alternet.org Economy Economy trump history founding fathers Obama's Fatal Political Flaw: He Still Believes in the Phony Notion of Bipartisanship http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/obamas-fatal-political-flaw-he-still-believes-phony-notion-bipartisanship <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">In today&#039;s world, compromise-first politics are a recipe for a disaster.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/2012_state_of_union.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>After seven years in the White House, President Obama still hasn't learned his lesson about Republicans. Case in point: his conclusion to last night's State of the Union address.</p><p>Looking back on his time as commander-in-chief, the president regretted that he had not done more to change our country's broken political system. Someone with the political "gifts" of Lincoln or FDR might have been able to do so, <a href="https://medium.com/@WhiteHouse[email protected]z9j9vhnk5" target="_blank">he said</a>, but not him.</p><p>The idea here is that Lincoln and FDR were great presidents because they brought people together and forced them to make compromises. In other words, President Obama thinks Lincoln and FDR were great presidents because they were "bipartisan."</p><p>This is just flat-out wrong.</p><p>What made Lincoln and FDR great wasn't the fact that they made compromises with their enemies; it was the fact that they fought their enemies and supported policies that were right, even if they made people on the other side of the aisle really, really angry.</p><p>This probably sounds a little bizarre to some people.</p><p>Bipartisanship, or at least the myth of bipartisanship, is so ingrained in our culture that many Americans forget what it really took for great presidents to become great. This is especially true in the case of President Lincoln.</p><p>Although his leanings were always towards compromise, the things we most remember him for—fighting the Civil War, signing the Emancipation Proclamation and passing the 13th Amendment—happened when he stopped being a moderate and embraced the radicals in his party who wanted him to become more, not less partisan.</p><p>FDR, similarly, was the opposite of bipartisan. He was the ultimate fighter and he kicked Republicans in the butt and took their lunch money, too. Listening to his speeches now is actually pretty shocking. Not only did he call Republicans out for being shills for the super-rich and the robber barons, he also called them the enemies of the people and of democracy.</p><p>Tragically, although it's still very much true, President Barack Obama would never talk like that.</p><p>A great example of Roosevelt at the top of his game is the speech he gave on Halloween night, 1936, just three days before being elected to his second term as president. <a href="http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=15219" target="_blank">In that speech</a>, he promised to keep on fighting his Republican enemies and the corporate elites they represented, telling his New York City audience that he "welcomed their hatred." That kind of talk is the reason FDR was elected president four times, and it's the reason he was arguably the greatest president in U.S. history.</p><p>Being a great president doesn't mean making compromises with the enemies of democracy, who have always existed in this country and at this point in time just happen to control the Republican Party. Being a great president means fighting the enemies of democracy head-on, as Lincoln did when he was at his best, and as FDR did the entire time he was in the White House.</p><p>The fact that President Obama doesn't understand this is his greatest flaw, especially because today's Republicans are as determined to undermine democracy as any faction in American history. And that's no exaggeration: conservatives literally planned to sabotage the Obama presidency the very first day it began.</p><p>On Jan. 20, 2009, while the Obamas were dancing at inaugural balls, a group of Republicans were planning the end of the Obama presidency before it even got seriously going. At the Caucus Room restaurant in Washington DC, they drew up a plan to intentionally sabotage Obama at every point possible. On the guest list for this invitation-only meeting were Republican senators like Jim DeMint, Jon Kyl, Tom Coburn, John Ensign and Bob Corker. Also in attendance were congressmen Paul Ryan, Pete Sessions, Jeb Hensarling, Pete Hoekstra, Dan Lungren, Eric Cantor and Kevin McCarthy.</p><p>Over the course of four hours, this group of powerful white conservative lawmakers committed to a plan of action. They promised each other that they would filibuster and obstruct any and all legislation supported by the United States' first black president, Barack Obama.</p><p>As Mitch McConnell bragged, they would do everything possible, for as long as it took, to make his a "failed presidency." Newt Gingrich, who was also there at the Caucus Room, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJpiY3YJdfU" target="_blank">admitted</a> a few years later that Republicans were intentionally trying to sabotage the Obama administration.</p><p>The framers of the Constitution had a word for this kind of politics: They called it sedition, and there can be no compromising with people who practice sedition.</p><p>With hundreds of millions of dollars of billionaire money at their disposal, today's Republicans are as dangerous as any group of economic royalists in U.S. history. They have to be fought, not bargained with.</p><p>President Obama probably understands this better now, but he didn't understand it for most of his presidency. And he still apparently thinks that bipartisanship should be the end goal of our political system, even though it's obvious to everyone who's paying attention that in today's world, compromise-first politics are a recipe for a disaster.</p> Fri, 15 Jan 2016 09:00:00 -0800 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1048955 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics barack obama state of the union bipartisanship partisanship Bernie's Insurgent Campaign Is Starting to Make the Corporate Democrats Panic http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/bernies-insurgent-campaign-starting-make-corporate-democrats-panic <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">If Sanders can pull off a two-state sweep of the early primaries, that would completely change the dynamic of the race.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_259200623.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>With just three weeks to go before the Iowa caucus, Bernie Sanders is now in a statistical dead heat with Hillary Clinton. According to a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/2016-polls-nbc_56927411e4b0cad15e652a11?utm_hp_ref=politics" target="_blank">new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll</a>, he trails her by just 3 points in Iowa, well within the margin of error. In other words, it's a tie. A dead heat. </p><p>This is really, really, really big news.</p><p>Sanders is already beating Clinton in New Hampshire, and if he can pull-off a two-state sweep of the early primaries, that would completely change the dynamic of the race. And I mean completely.</p><p>At this point, national polls don't really matter; what matters is momentum, and if Bernie can win Iowa and New Hampshire, he would suck up pretty much all of the momentum.</p><p>Now, considering the fact that Bernie Sanders does better than Hillary Clinton in a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/h-a-goodman/bernie-sanders-destroys-donald-trump-by-13-points-6-more-than-clinton-_b_8936840.html" target="_blank">hypothetical matchup</a> with Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, you'd think the establishment Democrats would be thrilled with these developments. You'd think the people who talk so much about "electability" and how important it is, would be overjoyed that Bernie Sanders, a popular and electable candidate, is moving toward the Democratic nomination.</p><p>Apparently not.</p><p>Instead of celebrating the rise of a new star, establishment Democrats are freaking out about the possibility of Bernie Sanders winning both Iowa and New Hampshire. Case in point: former Tennessee congressman Harold Ford, Jr., who on MSNBC agreed with Joe Scarborough that establishment Dems could recruit John Kerry or Joe Biden to run if Bernie sweeps both early primary states.</p><p>Pretty weird, right?</p><p>Here Sanders is inspiring millions of young people to get involved in politics, and establishment Democrats think it might be a good idea to draft two guys who've already lost presidential races. Go figure.</p><p>But here's the thing: Establishment Democrats aren't stupid — they should be scared of Bernie Sanders. That's because he represents a direct threat to the centrists who have ruled the Democratic Party for the past few decades.</p><p>Although he's not as well-known as someone like Karl Rove or Frank Luntz, Al From is one of the most important political operatives of the past few decades. A veteran Democratic staffer, he thought his party moved "too far to the left" during the 1970s, and so, in 1985, he <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2013/12/recruiting-bill-clinton/281946/" target="_blank">founded a group</a> known as the Democratic Leadership Council, or DLC, whose stated goals were "to expand the party's base and appeal to moderates and liberals."</p><p>That obviously sounds nice in theory, but in practice it meant the destruction of the thing that made the Democratic Party the United States' governing party for most of the 20th century: the progressive values of the New Deal and FDR. Under From's leadership, the DLC staged a bloodless coup of the Democratic Party, and swapped out the progressivism of FDR, Truman and Johnson for the corporatism of the Clintons. Instead of talking about ways to make the US a more just and equal society, Democrats now talked about things like welfare reform, so-called free trade and so-called school choice, which were really just corporate plans to privatize the commons.</p><p>The final victory in the DLC's takeover of the Democratic Party came when Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992. Al From had personally recruited Bill to run for president, and the DLC's ideas were the basis for most of his policies. Over the next 20 years, the DLC consolidated its stranglehold over the Democratic Party. And even though it no longer actually exists (it folded in 2011) the DLC and its supporters still control the <a href="https://medium.com/@matthewstoller[email protected]awdm9ky" target="_blank">Democratic establishment</a>, especially Hillary Clinton.</p><p>Which brings us back to Bernie Sanders. If his wildly successful campaign has told us anything, it's that Democratic voters are sick and tired of the DLC-Clintonites running the show. The base of the Democratic Party <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.boldprogressives.org/images/Big_Ideas-Polling_PDF-1.pdf" target="_blank">is still progressive</a> even if the party bigwigs have sold out to the corporatists. They want to go back to the values that made the Democratic Party the United States' governing party from the New Deal until the 1990s. They want real change, not Republican-lite policies pretending to be progressive. And so, they're siding with Bernie Sanders in the 2016 presidential election.</p><p>As I said earlier, establishment Democrats should be scared. Bernie's campaign is showing cracks in their junta and the coup that Al From staged more than two decades ago is on the verge of collapsing.</p> Wed, 13 Jan 2016 07:18:00 -0800 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1048873 at http://www.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 News & Politics bernie sanders hillary clinton democratic party election 2015 The Bundy Boys' Bizarre Anti-Constitutional Agenda http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/bundy-boys-bizarre-anti-constitutional-agenda <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">People like Ammon Bundy don&#039;t actually believe in or care about the Constitution.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/ammon_bundy_14719511641.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The armed, right-wing militia members who are occupying the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge out in Oregon say they believe in and want to defend the Constitution.</p><p>Here, for example, is Ammon Bundy, the leader of the occupation, <a href="http://www.kcci.com/ammon-bundy-we-want-to-restore-and-defend-the-constitution/37258960" target="_blank">talking to news reporters about why</a> he decided to take over a public building on public land.</p><p>That's pretty standard right-wing militia-type rhetoric, but the ironic thing is people like Ammon Bundy don't actually believe in or care about the Constitution.</p><p>They say they do, and can probably quote a few of its most obscure sections to "prove" that the federal government is evil, but when it comes right down to it, they're a lot more like the people that opposed the Constitution than the people who wrote it.</p><p>Yesterday, Twitter user @BillMon1 explained why this is in a brilliant series of tweets.</p><p><a href="https://storify.com/billmon1/the-road-to-yeehawd-568c3b5fcbceb727717b1d7b" target="_blank">He wrote</a>, "Funny thing about Bundy types &amp; their pocket Constitutions: They're in ideological tradition of those who OPPOSED it - Anti-Federalists Fears of a tyrannical central government, exaggerated claims of state sovereignty, localism and suspicion of elite conspiracies are all arguments and emotions that were used to agitate against ratification of the document Cliven Bundy claims to hold so dear."</p><p>But the irony doesn't stop there.</p><p>The Bundy types aren't just opposed to the spirit of the Constitution. They're opposed to what it actually says, too.</p><p>They don't want the federal government owning land in the West, but at the time of ratification, one of the major selling points of the Constitution was the fact that it did just that: It <a href="https://storify.com/billmon1/the-road-to-yeehawd-568c3b5fcbceb727717b1d7b" target="_blank">put the feds in charge of public land</a>.</p><p>And what's more, <a href="https://storify.com/billmon1/the-road-to-yeehawd-568c3b5fcbceb727717b1d7b" target="_blank">as @BillMon1 points out</a>, the Constitution specifically gives the government the power to regulate the lands it manages on behalf of the "We the People."</p><p>Right there in Article 4, Section 3, it says that "Congress shall have Power to dispose of and make all needful Rules and Regulations respecting Territory or other Property belonging to US."</p><p>In other words, the government owning and protecting a patch of land in the west isn't tyranny. It's quite literally what this republic was founded on.</p><p>Here, we rather like our Constitution, so either learn to deal with it or get packing.</p><p>There's also a bigger picture issue here that goes beyond Ammon Bundy, the militias and their really bizarre interpretation of the Constitution.</p><p>And that's the whole debate over who should control the commons.</p><p>The Bundys and their militia friends might look and sound extreme, but the basic argument driving their occupation - that private forces, not the "We the People" and our elected government should control the commons - is about as Republican as it gets.</p><p>It's the same argument Tea Partiers make when they rant against single-payer health care. It's the same argument that Republicans make when they scream "socialism" at people who want to make college free for all. It's the same argument that cable industry shills make when they oppose municipal broadband, and so on and so on.</p><p>But the thing is, public ownership of the commons is about as American as it gets, and there's no better proof of this than the Constitution giving the federal government (and thus "We the People") control over public lands including those out West.</p><p>In other words, what we're seeing out in Oregon right now isn't just a fight over federal land; it's also fight over the fundamental meaning of the Constitution, and Ammon Bundy and his friends are on the wrong side of that fight.</p><p>Let's hope they learn the error of their ways before anyone gets killed.</p><p> </p> Sat, 09 Jan 2016 00:00:00 -0800 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1048619 at http://www.alternet.org The Right Wing The Right Wing bundy oregon rightwing Who's Responsible for CA's Giant Toxic Methane Leak That Has Forced Thousands to Evacuate Their Homes? http://www.alternet.org/environment/whos-responsibility-californias-ongoing-giant-toxic-methane-leak-leaving-thousands <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">This natural gas leak is an atmospheric catastrophe like we&#039;ve never seen before.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1329411789727-1-0_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>If you don't live on the West Coast of the United States, you might not have heard about the massive gas well leak that's been venting natural gas into the atmosphere at a rate of more than 100,000 pounds per hour for more than two months.</p><p>Infrared video that the Environmental Defense Fund captured in December shows that the natural gas is billowing like a volcano just above Burbank, California, on a hilltop in the Aliso Canyon area. That video was taken over a month after the leak started on October 23, after the well had already ejected an estimated 80,000 tons of methane into the atmosphere.</p><p>For perspective, 80,000 tons of methane is equal to about a quarter of what the entire state of California—which is the eighth largest economy in the entire world—emitted between October 23 and November 20, 2015. And methane, which is what's mostly in "natural gas," is actually a much stronger greenhouse gas than CO2 in the short term, during the first 20 years it's in the atmosphere it can be up to 80 times more potent than CO2.</p><p>According to the Washington Post, the impact of the gases that have already been released from this one volcanic leak are equivalent to the impact, over 20 years, of six coal-fired power plants— or 7 million automobiles. But this leak isn't just a crisis for the climate; it has also forced the evacuation of 1,700 homes in nearby neighborhoods, the closing of two schools and countless residents have reported that the stench has made them ill.</p><p>So how did all this happen?</p><p>Engineers are speculating that a seven-inch pipe ruptured about 500 feet below the surface, but they won't know for sure until they are able to seal the well off completely, something the Southern California Gas Company says may not happen until March.</p><p>But according to a recent report from the Los Angeles Times and a lawsuit from local residents, the initial leak isn't what made this an environmental disaster for the history books. No, the real problem here goes way back to 1979, when the Southern California Gas Company had the original safety valve removed from the gas well, and then simply didn't bother to replace it.</p><p>Mind you, it's not like the well was new in 1979—it was already a quarter of a century old in 1979—and 36 years after the company cut that corner, the well finally ruptured at 61 years old. A spokeswoman told the Los Angeles Times that they didn't replace the safety valve simply because the company wasn't required to by law. So the company simply didn't replace the valve, because the profit motive of a corporation means that it has no incentive—no motivation—to protect anyone or anything that it isn't required to protect by law.</p><p>Because the company didn't replace the valve, the company estimates that it could be another three months before they can plug the well completely.</p><p>This is a case where corporate greed and lax regulations have caused a massive disruption in California's energy infrastructure and forced the evacuation of thousands of homes and seriously jeopardized any emissions cuts that California has achieved over the last few years. And none of it would have happened if we hadn't handed the management of our energy infrastructure over to largely deregulated for-profit corporations that only care about their bottom lines.</p><p>Civics has fallen by the wayside in US education, but this case makes it clear that it's time to have a real civic conversation about private and public goods, and about where private ownership ends and where the public commons begin.</p><p>This natural gas leak isn't just an environmental disaster; it's an atmospheric catastrophe like we've never really seen before. Thousands of people have been displaced from their homes, their communities forced to scatter and the climate has been put even further in jeopardy, just because a for-profit company wasn't required to replace the safety valve on their aging well.</p><p>This example proves the importance of treating our nation's energy infrastructure as a part of the commons. To do that, we need strict regulations—including enforcement mechanism including fines and jail for executives—that dissuade corporations from cutting corners at the expense of communities and the environment. And we need to lift the liability cap that allows fossil fuel companies to only pay a fraction of the damages that they cause to communities and to the environment.</p><p>It's time to start treating the commons as something owned by every taxpayer and to be preserved for future generations, instead of something to be exploited for present private profits and left as trash for the taxpayers to pay for and future generations to clean up.</p> Wed, 06 Jan 2016 09:08:00 -0800 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1048501 at http://www.alternet.org Environment Environment gas leak california methane GOP Fearmongering Is Taking American Politics to a Dark and Disturbing Place http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/gop-fearmongering-taking-american-politics-dark-and-disturbing-place <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Our message to the Republican Party should be simple: &quot;We are not afraid.&quot;</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_353116916.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>"Fear," a great Jedi master named Yoda once said, "leads to anger," which leads to hate, which leads to suffering, which, of course, leads to the Dark Side.</p><p>And while Yoda's warning was directed at the long-ago problems of a galaxy, far, far away, we'd do well to take it in stride right now in the United States in 2015.</p><p>That's because fear has reached an absolute fever pitch in the wake of the Paris and San Bernardino attacks, and, as the recent Republican debates have shown, it's taking our politics into a dark and very disturbing place.</p><p>When the candidates weren't coming up with fun and unique ways to start World War III, they were debating whether or not Muslim human beings deserve rights like other human beings, and talking about ISIS like it's an army of fascist zombies that owns its very own Death Star.</p><p>The conversation was apocalyptic, bizarre and terrifying.</p><p>In other words, it went down exactly the way Republicans wanted it to go down. They've always used fear to win elections.</p><p>Whether it's fear of same-sex couples getting married, fear of the government taking away the people's guns or fear of Black men, they've always understood that fear works to motivate their white base.</p><p>Fear works because it appeals to our basic animal instinct to stay safe, and it makes the simplest, inane and most downright evil solutions sound smart.</p><p>This is great for Republicans because they don't have any real solutions, but it's awful for our democracy and keeps us from having an honest conversation about the things that are really hurting our country.</p><p>Terrorism is a problem; no one denies that. But Republicans and their enablers in the media are blowing it way out of proportion.</p><p>There's no reason Americans should be as scared about it as they are, and <a href="http://www.ibtimes.com/americans-fear-terrorism-its-peak-911-new-poll-says-2221155" target="_blank">according to recent polls</a>, they're more worried about terrorist attacks now than they have been at any time since 9/11.</p><p>This makes sense in the wake of a non-stop media and Republican scare campaign, but it's still ridiculous in the face of, you know, facts.</p><p>The simple truth of the matter is that terrorist attacks in the United States - especially those committed by Islamic fundamentalist extremists - are very, very rare.</p><p>Since 9/11, a grand total of 93 people have been killed in terrorist attacks on American soil, and of those 93 people, the majority of them were killed by white conservative terrorists.</p><p>Could the real reason everyone is terrified of ISIS and not abortion clinic bombers be that the people who sympathize with ISIS are more often than not brown of skin and "foreign-looking?"</p><p>It seems pretty likely.</p><p>But anyways, neither Islamic fundamentalist terrorism nor right-wing terrorism is worth freaking out about. Again, just 93 people have been killed in terrorist attacks on US soil in the past 14 years.</p><p>By comparison, <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm" target="_blank">in just one year</a> (2013) 600,000 Americans died of heart disease, 580,000 died of cancer and 150,000 died of respiratory diseases. And <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm" target="_blank">in that same year</a>, 130,000 people died in some kind of accident, 128,000 died of strokes and 75,000 died of diabetes.</p><p>Oh yeah, and 57,000 people <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm" target="_blank">died from the flu</a>, 47,000 died from nephrosis and 40,000 died from suicide.</p><p>Amazing, right?</p><p>You're more likely to die from the flu than you are from a terrorist attack. And yet there's no special CNN debate devoted to talking about we can better immunize Americans against the flu. Could that be because freaking out terrorism means more support for war, which means more military adventures abroad, which means more money in the pockets of defense contractors?</p><p>Again, it seems pretty likely.</p><p>The US faces many serious threats right now. For example, tens of millions of people are still without health care despite Obamacare; the middle class is rapidly vanishing; and global warming is rapidly spiraling out of control.</p><p>And while Islamic fundamentalist terrorism is a problem, it's a manageable one, and I guarantee you that if we'd minded our own damn business, we wouldn't have to worry about it much longer.</p><p>If we had a mature political system with responsible parties, everyone would understand this. But we don't have a mature political system.</p><p>We have a political system where one party - the Republican Party - is totally and completely committed to scaring the crap out of people to get elected so they can have access to money and power for their own purposes.</p><p>And that is something worth freaking out about, because if history tells us anything, it's that when people are scared, they'll do pretty much anything to feel safe. Talk about a path to the Dark Side ...</p><p>Our message to the Republican Party - and their symbiotic fellow travelers in ISIS - should be simple: "We are not afraid."</p><p>And once that's said, let's get about the business of rolling back Reaganism and Clintonism and rebuilding the US middle class while being good neighbors and citizens of the world.</p><p>We've done it before, and we can do it again.</p><p> </p> Sat, 02 Jan 2016 00:00:00 -0800 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1047588 at http://www.alternet.org The Right Wing Election 2016 The Right Wing gop Isis fear The Big Lie in the War Against Drugs http://www.alternet.org/drugs/big-lie-war-against-drugs <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Since the beginning, the War on Drugs has been about controlling political power--by breaking up Black communities and the dissident left.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_195329831-edited.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>If you've shopped at a gardening supply store in the last year, and if you happen to live with someone who drinks tea, guess what?</p><p>Your local sheriff could just send a SWAT team into your house.</p><p>It's not a far-fetched scenario, in fact it actually happened, here in the US, just three short years ago.</p><p>Back in 2012, a Kansas SWAT team raided the home of Robert and Addie Harte and tore their house apart looking for evidence of a major marijuana growing operation.</p><p>The investigation began when a state trooper stationed at a gardening supply store (yes, they had the gardening store staked out!) spotted Robert Harte and his son purchasing supplies to grow hydroponic tomatoes.</p><p>According to the Washington Post, having seen the Hartes buying hydroponic growing accessories, the Johnson County Sheriff's Department started investigating the Harte family.</p><p>They searched the family's trash and found "saturated plant material" that supposedly tested positive for THC, the active chemical in marijuana.</p><p>But the reality was, Mrs. Harte is a tea drinker, and that wet plant matter was nothing more than used tea leaves, and the SWAT raid turned up nothing.</p><p>Just last week, a federal judge dismissed the family's lawsuit against the police, and said that the sheriffs had probable cause - based on the garden store purchase and old tea leaves.</p><p>But the Hartes aren't the average targets of this kind of drug sting, and one sheriff actually boasted after the raid that the operation was so unusual because they'd shut down a drug operation that was run by an "average family" in a "good neighborhood" - all coded language for "middle class white people."</p><p>Aside from the fact that the Hartes weren't actually doing ANYTHING illegal, the sheriff unwittingly showed just how exceptional it was that the family was a target at all.</p><p>Because the war on drugs has never been about drugs.</p><p>No, the war on drugs, since its very beginning, has been about controlling political power - by breaking up Black communities and the dissident left.</p><p>And we know that because the people who have been involved, the architects and the leaders in the war on drugs, have admitted it - even bragged about it!</p><p>Before he died, Nixon counsel and former assistant to the president, John Ehrlichman, told author Dan Baum that:</p><blockquote><p>"The Nixon Campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar Left, and Black people. You understand what I'm saying? We knew we couldn't make it illegal to be either against the war or Black. But by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and Blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did."</p></blockquote><p>In other words, Nixon and the GOP used the war on drugs to help politically assassinate community leaders, and to fracture communities by removing individuals from society and throwing them in prison.</p><p>The Nixon administration signed the Controlled Substances Act into law in 1970, officially codifying the war on drugs into federal law.</p><p>By 1973, more than 300,000 people were being arrested every year under the law, and a disproportionate number of those were African Americans.</p><p>The plan went hand in hand with the Republican "Southern Strategy" - <a href="http://www.thenation.com/article/exclusive-lee-atwaters-infamous-1981-interview-southern-strategy/" target="_blank">just listen</a>to former Republican strategist Lee Atwater describing how that worked.</p><p>Nixon and his advisers didn't invent the racist war on drugs though. Using drug enforcement as a way to oppress minority communities already had a 40-year precedent.</p><p>In the 1930s, Harry J. Anslinger served as the first commissioner of the US Treasury Department's Federal Bureau of Narcotics, which eventually became the Drug Enforcement Agency.</p><p>Back then, he reportedly claimed:</p><blockquote><p>"There are 100,000 total marijuana smokers in the US, and most are Negroes, Hispanics, Filipinos and entertainers. Their Satanic music, jazz and swing result from marijuana use. This marijuana causes white women to seek sexual relations with Negroes, entertainers and any others."</p></blockquote><p>He also he also used explicit racist epithets in his diatribes, saying "Reefer makes darkies think they're as good as white men."</p><p>Just like Lee Atwater described, the language had changed by 1970, but the ideas were the same.</p><p>Nixon wasn't the first to use drug enforcement as a way to oppress minorities in the US, but he did step up the racist war on drugs and sign it into law - and every president since then has continued and even expanded it.</p><p>According to the <a href="http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/upload/08_01_REP_DrugTx_AC-PS.pdf" target="_blank">Justice Policy Institute</a>, approximately 500,000 people were serving time for drug offenses in state and federal prisons and jails in 2008.</p><p>Unsurprisingly, the <a href="http://www.naacp.org/pages/criminal-justice-fact-sheet" target="_blank">NAACP</a> reports that 38 percent of people arrested for drug offenses are Black, and that 59 percent of drug offenders in state prisons are Black.</p><p>The war on drugs is costing us <a href="http://www.drugpolicy.org/wasted-tax-dollars" target="_blank">tens of billions</a> in federal and state tax dollars every year, and the only results have been millions of undue criminal convictions that ruin lives, destroy communities and undermine our democracy.</p><p>That's why it's time to end the racist war on drugs.</p><p>It would save us billions every year in enforcement costs, and even more in incarceration costs.</p><p>And, most importantly, it would roll back one of Nixon's most damaging and racist legacies, and it would allow millions of Americans, mostly from minority communities, to fully take part in our democracy once again.</p><p>And if we really, truly, want to address drug abuse in the US, we need to follow the advice of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and New Jersey Gov. Chris Chistie, and start treating drug abuse as a public health issue, instead of a criminal legal issue.</p> Wed, 30 Dec 2015 10:41:00 -0800 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1048169 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs News & Politics war on drugs Why Is It Illegal to Research the Impact of Gun Control on Public Health? http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/why-it-illegal-research-impact-gun-control-public-health <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It&#039;s illegal for the CDC to conduct research into the impact of gun control on public health.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_188496368.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The US is in the midst of a full-blown public health crisis.</p><p>Around 282 people every day - more than 32,000 people every year - <a href="http://www.bradycampaign.org/sites/default/files/GunDeathandInjuryStatSheet3YearAverageFINAL.pdf" target="_blank">are dying</a> from a totally preventable cause.</p><p>This totally preventable cause, by the way, just isn't a problem in most other developed nations.</p><p>They've either eliminated it altogether or responded to previous outbreaks in such a way as to make future ones rarer and much less deadly than the ones we have here.</p><p>I'm talking, of course, about gun violence.</p><p>Yes, that's right, gun violence.</p><p>It's not something that most people think about when they think about the biggest public health crises in the US - they usually think of cancer, heart disease or drug addiction - but that's exactly what gun violence is: a public health crisis.</p><p>It's a public health crisis because it's an ongoing and substantial threat to the safety of the citizens of this country.</p><p>No one, I repeat no one, is safe, at least not with the NRA out there spending millions of dollars every election cycle to make sure weapons of war stay on our streets.</p><p>And that raises a really important point: We know what the problem is when it comes to gun violence.</p><p>The problem is that it there are too many guns in too many hands.</p><p>So the logical thing to do would be something like what we did when Ralph Nader revealed that shoddy automobile manufacturing was causing deadly car crashes or when scientists revealed that cigarettes were causing cancer: get real scientific information on the problem and then pass laws, informed by that science, that eliminate the problem at its root cause.</p><p>When it comes to gun violence, this would mean passing laws that make it much harder to buy and sell guns of any kind, especially assault rifles and other weapons of war that have no business being in the hands of private civilians.</p><p>This isn't really up for debate.</p><p>The NRA can pump out whatever "good guys with guns" propaganda it wants, but the fact of the matter is that Americans are safer with fewer, not more guns, on the streets.</p><p>The latest proof of this comes out of Missouri, which in 2007 repealed some of its most important gun control laws, including universal background checks.</p><p>According to <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/22/health/in-missouri-fewer-gun-restrictions-and-more-gun-killings.html" target="_blank">a new study</a> from Johns Hopkins University, this caused a 16 percent jump in the Show Me State's gun homicide rate.</p><p>Missouri was always a violent place - its gun homicide rate was actually 13.8 percent higher than the national average before the 2007 repeal - but doing away with common sense things like background checks made things much, much worse.</p><p>Between 2008 and 2014, the first eight years after repeal of their control laws, Missouri's gun <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/22/health/in-missouri-fewer-gun-restrictions-and-more-gun-killings.html" target="_blank">homicide rate was</a> 47 percent - yes, 47 percent - higher than the national average.</p><p>It's a pretty straightforward equation: More freely available guns equals more gun deaths - and fewer freely available guns equals fewer guns deaths.</p><p>Period.</p><p>End of story.</p><p>Which raises the question: If gun violence caused by easy access to guns is such an obvious public health problem with such an obvious solution, why doesn't our government treat it like one?</p><p>The answer to that question has a one-word answer - Republicans.</p><p>Believe it or not, it's actually illegal for the Centers of Disease Control to conduct any research whatsoever into the impact of gun control on public health.</p><p>That's right - illegal!</p><p>This is all thanks to former Arizona Republican Congressman Jay Dickey, who in 1996 pushed for and helped pass an NRA-backed law that bans government research into the relationship between gun ownership and public health.</p><p>This law is now called the Dickey Amendment after its creator, and, outside of NRA money, it's one of the biggest roadblocks in the way of our having a sensible gun control policy in this country.</p><p>Even Jay Dickey thinks so, which is why <a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/jay-dickey-regrets-amendment" target="_blank">he now opposes</a> the law he once helped create.</p><p>The government - the institution we trust with our safety - shouldn't be prevented from researching a major public health problem just because that research could make a profitable business look bad.</p><p>We wouldn't give the auto industry or the tobacco industry that kind of exemption, and we shouldn't give it to the gun industry either.</p><p>It's time to repeal the Dickey Amendment and starting treating gun violence like what it is: one of the biggest public health crises in the US.<br /> </p> Tue, 29 Dec 2015 08:13:00 -0800 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1048100 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics Dickey Amendment gun violence gun control cdc research The Real Reason Why the Kochs Developed a Sudden Passion for Prison Reform http://www.alternet.org/drugs/real-reason-why-kochs-developed-sudden-passion-prison-reform <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Criminal legal reform has become one of the very few legitimately bipartisan issues in US politics.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/koch_brothers.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>It looks like the Koch brothers have scammed us once again.</p><p>When news first came out that Charles and David Koch - the Koch brothers - were supporting criminal legal system reform efforts in Congress, many of us thought, "Wow, they're actually doing something good for once." And for good reason, too.</p><p>Criminal legal reform has, over the past few years, become one of the very few legitimately bipartisan issues in US politics, and given their public statements, it really looked like Kochs were joining that bipartisan consensus for all the right reasons.</p><p><a href="http://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/watch/charles-koch-on-reforming-us-drug-laws-557953603988" target="_blank">Here</a>, for example, is Charles Koch on a recent episode of "Morning Joe" talking about why we need to reform drug laws. Sounds pretty persuasive, right? Boy, were we naïve.</p><p>Charles and David Koch may very well want to change drug laws, but the idea that they're making this push for criminal legal reform out of the goodness of their own hearts appears to be totally and completely false. After all the publicity they've gotten from the media and the DC establishment, it now turns out that the Kochs appear to want to change sentencing laws to help protect potential white collar criminals like, well, themselves or their buddies.</p><p>As The New York Times reported, Koch Industries, backing as part of a package of criminal legal system reform legislation, a bill that would change the way the feds can use a legal doctrine known as "mens rea" in white collar cases. If the bill passes, white collar criminals could get away with breaking the law if they can simply say that they "didn't know" they or their business and colleagues were breaking the law when committing the crime in question.</p><p>They can't do this now - it's that whole "ignorance of the law is no excuse" thing. And while this whole issue of "did they or didn't they know" might sound like a minor bit of legal esoterica, it's not.</p><p>The power to convict someone of committing a crime, regardless of whether or not they knew they were breaking the law when they committed that crime, is an important tool for prosecutors, especially in white collar cases.</p><p>Justice Department officials, for example, <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/25/us/politics/rare-alliance-of-libertarians-and-white-house-on-sentencing-begins-to-fray.html" target="_blank">told The New York Times</a> that not having this tool might have prevented them from getting guilty pleas in a 2013 case involving a Colorado factory farm whose listeria-infected cantaloupes killed 33 people, as well as a 2012 case involving a pharmacy that killed three people by selling them mislabeled drugs.</p><p>In other words, letting white collar criminals claim ignorance of the law as a defense would make it really easy for them to get away with, well, murder. And, yes, according to The New York Times, that's what the Kochs are proposing.</p><p>So yeah, this is a big deal.</p><p>It also turns out that the Koch brothers have a very personal reason for supporting these kinds of changes to federal criminal law.</p><p>As <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/25/us/politics/rare-alliance-of-libertarians-and-white-house-on-sentencing-begins-to-fray.html" target="_blank">The New York Times reports</a>, Koch Industries' general counsel and senior vice president Mark Holden "acknowledge[s]... that the company's efforts to pursue revisions in federal criminal law were inspired in part by a criminal case filed 15 years ago against Koch Industries claiming that it covered up releases of hazardous air pollution at a Texas oil refinery. Those charges resulted in a guilty plea by the company and a $20 million penalty."</p><p>As usual, the Kochs are just looking out for themselves. And the sad thing is that even if they do really care about changing drug sentencing laws, their push to let white collar criminals off the hook could sabotage the efforts going on in Congress right now to make real change to our criminal legal system.</p><p>A bill that's effectively a gimme for polluters might be too much for many Democrats to swallow, especially now that the Justice Department has called it out as just that - a gimme for polluters.</p><p>Ever since John D. Rockefeller started handing out shiny new dimes to children to enhance his robber baron image, rich people have been trying to portray themselves as concerned about average people as part of a ploy to protect their own privilege. Sometimes we see through it and sometimes we get bamboozled, but this time we really got bamboozled.</p><p>The Koch brothers don't want to reform the federal criminal code to help average Americans stay out of jail for smoking pot; they want to reform the federal criminal code to protect fat-cat polluters. It really is as simple and dirty as that.</p><p>Welcome to life in the best democracy money can buy.</p> Fri, 27 Nov 2015 07:16:00 -0800 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1046389 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs politics koch drug war prison The Sad Truth of Our Politics: It's Basically Turned into a Competition Among Oligarchs to Own Everything http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/sad-truth-our-politics-its-basically-turned-competition-among-oligarchs-own <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It could still happen here.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-11-01_at_2.46.01_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">Ben Carson’s feeble attempt to equate Hitler and pro-gun control Democrats was short-lived, but along with the announcement that Marco Rubio has brought in his second big supporting billionaire, it brings to mind the first American vice-president to point out the “American fascists” among us.</p><p dir="ltr">Although most Americans remember that Harry Truman was Franklin D. Roosevelt's vice-president when Roosevelt died in 1945 (making Truman president), Roosevelt had two previous vice-presidents: John N. Garner (1933-1941) and Henry A. Wallace (1941-1945).</p><p dir="ltr">In early 1944, the New York Times asked Vice-President Henry Wallace to, as Wallace noted, “write a piece answering the following questions: What is a fascist? How many fascists have we? How dangerous are they?”</p><p dir="ltr">Vice-President Wallace's answer to those questions was published in the New York Times on April 9, 1944, at the height of the war against the Axis powers of Germany and Japan.</p><p dir="ltr">“The really dangerous American fascists,” Wallace wrote, “are not those who are hooked up directly or indirectly with the Axis. The FBI has its finger on those. The dangerous American fascist is the man who wants to do in the United States in an American way what Hitler did in Germany in a Prussian way. The American fascist would prefer not to use violence. His method is to poison the channels of public information.</p><p dir="ltr">“With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power.”</p><p dir="ltr">In this, Wallace was using the classic definition of the word “fascist”—the definition Mussolini had in mind when he claimed to have invented the word. (It was actually Italian philosopher Giovanni Gentile who wrote the entry in the Encyclopedia Italiana that said: “Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” Mussolini, however, affixed his name to the entry, and claimed credit for it.)</p><p dir="ltr">As the 1983 American Heritage Dictionary noted, fascism is, “A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism.”</p><p dir="ltr">Mussolini was quite straightforward about all this. In a 1923 pamphlet titled “The Doctrine of Fascism” he wrote, “If classical liberalism spells individualism, Fascism spells government.” But not a government of, by, and for We The People; instead, it would be a government of, by, and for the most powerful corporate interests in the nation.</p><p dir="ltr">In 1938, Mussolini brought his vision of fascism into full reality when he dissolved Parliament and replaced it with the Camera dei Fasci e delle Corporazioni—the Chamber of the Fascist Corporations. Corporations were still privately owned, but now instead of having to sneak their money to folks like Tom DeLay and covertly write legislation, they were openly in charge of the government.</p><p dir="ltr">Vice-President Wallace bluntly laid out in his 1944 Times article his concern about the same happening here in America:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">“If we define an American fascist as one who in case of conflict puts money and power ahead of human beings, then there are undoubtedly several million fascists in the United States. There are probably several hundred thousand if we narrow the definition to include only those who in their search for money and power are ruthless and deceitful. ... They are patriotic in time of war because it is to their interest to be so, but in time of peace they follow power and the dollar wherever they may lead.”</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Nonetheless, at that time there were few corporate heads who’d run for political office, and in Wallace's view, most politicians still felt it was their obligation to represent We The People instead of corporate cartels.</p><p dir="ltr">“American fascism will not be really dangerous,” he added in the next paragraph, “until there is a purposeful coalition among the cartelists, the deliberate poisoners of public information....”</p><p dir="ltr">Noting that, “Fascism is a worldwide disease,” Wallace further suggest that fascism's “greatest threat to the United States will come after the war” and will manifest “within the United States itself.”</p><p dir="ltr">In Sinclair Lewis's 1935 novel <em>It Can't Happen Here</em> a conservative southern politician is helped to the presidency by a nationally syndicated radio talk show host. The politician, Buzz Windrip, runs his campaign on family values, the flag and patriotism. Windrip and the talk show host portray advocates of traditional American democracy as anti-American.</p><p dir="ltr">When Windrip becomes president, he opens a Guantanamo-style detention center, and the viewpoint character of the book, Vermont newspaper editor Doremus Jessup, flees to Canada to avoid prosecution under new “patriotic” laws that make it illegal to criticize the President.</p><p dir="ltr">As Lewis noted in his novel, “the President, with something of his former good-humor [said]: 'There are two [political] parties, the Corporate and those who don't belong to any party at all, and so, to use a common phrase, are just out of luck!' The idea of the Corporate or Corporative State, Secretary [of State] Sarason had more or less taken from Italy.”</p><p dir="ltr">And, President “Windrip's partisans called themselves the Corporatists, or, familiarly, the 'Corpos,' which nickname was generally used.”</p><p dir="ltr">Lewis, the first American writer to win a Nobel Prize, was world famous by 1944, as was his book. And several well-known and powerful Americans, including Prescott Bush, had lost businesses in the early 1940s because of charges by Roosevelt that they were doing business with Hitler.</p><p dir="ltr">These events all, no doubt, colored Vice-President Wallace's thinking when he wrote:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">“Still another danger is represented by those who, paying lip service to democracy and the common welfare, in their insatiable greed for money and the power which money gives, do not hesitate surreptitiously to evade the laws designed to safeguard the public from monopolistic extortion. American fascists of this stamp were clandestinely aligned with their German counterparts before the war, and are even now preparing to resume where they left off, after 'the present unpleasantness' ceases.”</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">Fascists have an agenda that is primarily economic. As the Free Dictionary (<a href="http://www.thefreedictionary.com">www.thefreedictionary.com</a>) notes, fascism/corporatism is “an attempt to create a 'modern' version of feudalism by merging the 'corporate' interests with those of the state.”</p><p dir="ltr">Feudalism, of course, is one of the most stable of the three historic tyrannies (kingdoms, theocracies, feudalism) that ruled nations prior to the rise of American republican democracy, and can be roughly defined as “rule by the rich.”</p><p dir="ltr">Thus, the neo-feudal/fascistic rich get richer (and more powerful) on the backs of the poor and the middle class, an irony not lost on author Thomas Frank, who notes in his book <em>What's The Matter With Kansas</em> that, “You can see the paradox first-hand on nearly any Main Street in middle America—'going out of business' signs side by side with placards supporting George W. Bush.”</p><p dir="ltr">The businesses “going out of business” are, in fascist administrations, usually those of locally owned small and medium-sized companies. As Wallace wrote, some in big business “are willing to jeopardize the structure of American liberty to gain some temporary advantage.”</p><p dir="ltr">He added:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">“Monopolists who fear competition and who distrust democracy because it stands for equal opportunity would like to secure their position against small and energetic enterprise [companies]. In an effort to eliminate the possibility of any rival growing up, some monopolists would sacrifice democracy itself.”</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">But American fascists who would want former CEOs as president, vice-president, House Majority Whip, and Senate Majority Leader, and write legislation with corporate interests in mind, don't generally talk to We The People about their real agenda, or the harm it does to small businesses and working people.</p><p dir="ltr">Instead, as Hitler did with the trade union leaders and the Jews, they point to a “them” to pin with blame and distract people from the harms of their economic policies.</p><p dir="ltr">In a comment prescient of Alabama's recent closing of every drivers' license office in every Alabama county with more than 75% black residents (while recently passing a law requiring a drivers' license or similar ID to vote), Wallace continued:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">“The symptoms of fascist thinking are colored by environment and adapted to immediate circumstances. But always and everywhere they can be identified by their appeal to prejudice and by the desire to play upon the fears and vanities of different groups in order to gain power. It is no coincidence that the growth of modern tyrants has in every case been heralded by the growth of prejudice. It may be shocking to some people in this country to realize that, without meaning to do so, they hold views in common with Hitler when they preach discrimination...”</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">But even at this, Wallace noted, American fascists would have to lie to the people in order to gain power. And, because they were in bed with the nation's largest corporations - who could gain control of newspapers and broadcast media—they could promote their lies with ease.</p><p dir="ltr">“The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact,” Wallace wrote. “Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy.”</p><p dir="ltr">In his strongest indictment of the tide of fascism, the vice-president of the United States saw rising in America, he added:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">“They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.” </p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">This liberal vision of an egalitarian America in which very large businesses and media monopolies are broken up under the 1890 Sherman Anti-Trust Act (which Reagan stopped enforcing, leading to the mergers &amp; acquisitions frenzy that continues to this day) was the driving vision of the New Deal (and of “Trust Buster” Teddy Roosevelt a generation earlier).</p><p dir="ltr">As Wallace's president, Franklin D. Roosevelt, said when he accepted his party's renomination in 1936 in Philadelphia, “...out of this modern civilization, economic royalists [have] carved new dynasties.... It was natural and perhaps human that the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for control over government itself. They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction.... And as a result the average man once more confronts the problem that faced the Minute Man....”</p><p dir="ltr">Speaking indirectly of the fascists Wallace would directly name almost a decade later, Roosevelt brought the issue to its core:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">“These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power.” But, he thundered, “Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power!”</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">In the election of 2016, we again stand at the same crossroad Roosevelt and Wallace confronted during the Great Depression and World War II.</p><p dir="ltr">Fascism is again rising in America, this time calling itself “conservativism.” The Republican candidates’ and their billionaire donors’ behavior today eerily parallels that day in 1936 when Roosevelt said, “In vain they seek to hide behind the flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the flag and the Constitution stand for.”</p><p dir="ltr">It's particularly ironic that the “big news” is which billionaire is supporting which Republican candidate. Like Eisenhower’s farewell address, President Roosevelt and Vice-President Wallace's warnings are more urgent now than ever before.</p> Sun, 01 Nov 2015 11:27:00 -0800 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1045052 at http://www.alternet.org The Right Wing The Right Wing fascism gop election corporations A CEO Goes to Jail for Killing People http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/ceo-goes-jail-killing-people <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A salmonella outbreak in 2008 and 2009 was blamed for nine deaths and hundreds of cases of salmonella.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_148390613.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>On Monday, a federal jury sentenced the former owner of the now defunct Peanut Corporation of America to 28 years in prison for his role in one of the largest salmonella outbreaks in US history.</p><p>The outbreak happened in 2008 and 2009. It was blamed for nine deaths and hundreds of cases of salmonella, and it triggered one of the largest food recalls in US history.</p><p>The 28-year sentence is the stiffest punishment that a producer has ever received in a case of foodborne illness.</p><p>But Stewart Parnell wasn't charged with killing or sickening anybody, even though the outbreak was connected to at least nine deaths across five states.</p><p>No, even though his actions led to the equivalent of a killing spree across multiple states, he was charged for 67 counts of defrauding customers.</p><p>But this case is actually even more basic than fraud. At its roots is the simple motivator that has tainted business dealings since the beginning of time: greed.</p><p>As District Judge W. Louis Sands explained about the case: "these acts were driven simply by the desire to profit and to protect profits notwithstanding the known risks [from Salmonella]. This is commonly and accurately referred to as greed."</p><p>And that shouldn't be surprising to anyone - for-profit corporations exist first and foremost to make money.</p><p>Even the framers of the US Constitution knew that. James Madison wrote in 1817,</p><blockquote><p>"There is an evil which ought to be guarded against in the indefinite accumulation of property from the capacity of holding it in perpetuity by ... corporations. The power of all corporations ought to be limited in this respect. The growing wealth acquired by them never fails to be a source of abuses."</p></blockquote><p>And for over a century states maintained control over corporations and corporate power in order to keep that "source of abuses" in check.</p><p>The framers of the Constitution had just fought the Revolutionary War to break the hold of the monopolistic British East India Company over the colonies and were suspicious of overwhelming corporate power.</p><p>But they also knew that the newly-founded country wouldn't be able to grow without manufacturing and domestic corporations that could facilitate that.</p><p>And so from the very first days of our country, local, state and federal legislatures retained the power to limit corporate activity while still encouraging entrepreneurship.</p><p>Much of that power was based in "revocation clauses" - the ability of the state to revoke the corporate charter. "The corporate death penalty."</p><p>It was a well-recognized legal fact at that time that corporations are "artificial persons," and that they only really exist by the authorization of state legislatures in the form of a corporate charter.</p><p>And corporate charters were like a driver's license for much of our country's history - the government granted the owners of a corporation permission to operate in a certain way for a certain period of time.</p><p>There's two key parts there. First, that the government is giving permission to operate - permission which can be revoked.</p><p>The second key part is that the license or the charter only gives permission to operate <em>in a certain way.</em></p><p>A driver's license isn't a license to drive a car at any speed anywhere - those are things that can lead to a suspended license.</p><p>And historically a business charter would be revoked if the corporation acted anti-competitively or put citizens at risk with its operations.</p><p>And much like a driver's license, for much of our country's history, a corporation would have to apply to have its charter renewed after a set amount of time.</p><p>But that all changed in the late 19th century and early 20th century when states like New Jersey and Delaware started changing their charter laws to appeal to the nation's largest corporations and to allow them to operate in ways that other states didn't.</p><p>Those states led the charge against limits on corporate behavior - they allowed corporations to live forever - and they allowed them to have interlocking boards.</p><p>And that started a nationwide race to the bottom in terms of limiting corporate behavior.</p><p>If states wanted to attract the largest and most successful corporations, they would have to loosen their restrictions on corporate charters.</p><p>And that race to the bottom turned international as businesses grew into the multinational monopolists that we know today.</p><p>It's good that Stewart Parnell is being held accountable for knowingly putting the public in danger.</p><p>And it's good for the public that, in this case, the Peanut Corporation went bankrupt shortly after the initial recall of their products.</p><p>But the simple fact is this isn't the first or the last time that corporate greed has been "a source of abuses."</p><p>Take liability caps on oil spills, pipeline ruptures and mine collapses that let fossil fuel companies continue to operate, even after poisoning our waterways and endangering their workers.</p><p>Or the world's biggest banks that brought the global financial system to its knees by defrauding anyone and everyone in the pursuit of endless profits.</p><p>Those businesses will keep putting profits over people as long as they know that the worst that will happen is a fine.</p> Thu, 24 Sep 2015 13:03:00 -0700 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1042958 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics Stewart Parnell Peanut Corporation of America salmonella outbreak How the Wall Street Journal's Attempt to Take Down Bernie Sanders Backfired http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/how-wall-street-journals-attempt-take-down-bernie-sanders-backfired <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">This wasn&#039;t just an editorial sleight of hand.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_259200632_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Bernie Sanders is leading Hillary Clinton in early primary states, and he's gaining on her in national polls. Major media outlets are starting to treat Senator Sanders seriously, but not necessarily with complete honesty. Take for example Laura Meckler's article in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week. It was provocatively titled "Price Tag of Bernie Sanders's Proposals: $18 Trillion."</p><p>The article starts off by dismissing Sanders's campaign as a long-shot, and then goes on to call his proposals "the largest peacetime expansion of government in modern American history." </p><p>"In all" Meckler writes, "he backs at least $18 trillion in new spending over a decade... a sum that alarms conservatives and gives even many Democrats pause."</p><p>That estimate may give conservatives and corporate Democrats pause, but the whole article should give any reader who can do simple arithmetic pause. One red flag is that the click-bait headline makes it seem like the piece is talking about a one- or maybe two-term estimate of what Bernie's budgets might look like. Or even more extreme; that just getting his proposals off the ground would take $18 trillion.</p><p>But the reality is that we're only looking at $1.8 trillion a year under Bernie's sweeping proposals. But that's just a little editorial sleight of hand to drive traffic to their site right? Well, not quite.</p><p>You see, the Wall Street Journal piece cited research by Gerald Friedman, a professor of economics at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. And there was just one small problem with their interpretation of his research. They blatantly omitted his conclusion.</p><p>But in the age of information, major newspapers are rightfully under more scrutiny than ever. Professor Friedman saw the Wall Street Journal's piece and responded in the Huffington Post with "An Open Letter to the Wall Street Journal on Its Bernie Sanders Hit Piece."</p><p>He writes that the Journal wasn't completely wrong: the program would involve spending $15 trillion over a decade. But they left out the key detail: it would actually save the country a total $5 trillion over those 10 years. We'd see those savings in reduced administrative waste, lower pharmaceutical and device prices, and by decreasing the rate of medical inflation.</p><p>Because the simple fact is: We, as a people, are going to spend that $15 trillion on health care anyway. The difference is that under the current model, we pay that money to private insurance companies. And those private companies have much higher levels of administrative costs, fraud and general waste than Medicare does. Another difference is that the government would be negotiating drug prices, making drugs more affordable for everyone.</p><p>And who would see that $5 trillion in savings? Businesses for one. Along with state and local governments. Because they wouldn't have to pay for their employees' insurance — who'd be covered by Medicare for All.</p><p>And individuals, like you and me, wouldn't have to worry about co-payments and deductibles. Or worse, finding that the "affordable plan" that we choose doesn't cover a necessary procedure.</p><p>You see, as Bruh1 points out over at DailyKos, the Wall Street Journal presented government spending in a fundamentally dishonest way. Because what we spend can't be separated from what we'd save by going with different policies.</p><p>Take Bruh1's example of shopping for a car: "You don't buy a car by saying 'well it would cost me 10,000 here, but the same car would cost me 7,000 there, so the price tag on the 10,000 car is too expensive.' You say 'it saves me 3,000 to buy from the other guy."</p><p>And that's the point — it's not $15 trillion that Bernie's plan would cost the country, because we as a people will spend that amount, and more, on health-care costs anyway.</p><p>It's $5 trillion that we the people will save with Bernie's plan — and get back — by adopting an efficient and affordable single-payer health-care for all system. And that would be good for everyone, and the economy as a whole.</p><p>Unfortunately the Wall Street Journal's analysis of Bernie's proposals isn't just another routine example of shoddy corporate journalism. It's an example of how the corporate media tries to discredit and discard anyone who they can't control. And that's not just bad news for our political process. It's also bad news for the Fourth Estate, which really should at least try to be honest in its critique of policy issues.</p><p> </p> Tue, 22 Sep 2015 00:00:00 -0700 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1042697 at http://www.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 bernie sanders media election Picking Apart One of the Biggest Lies in American Politics: 'Free Trade' http://www.alternet.org/economy/picking-apart-one-biggest-lies-american-politics-free-trade <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It just enriches huge companies at everyone else&#039;s expense. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-07-26_at_12.45.48_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>In 1992, Ross Perot won almost 20% of the entire presidential vote on the single issue of stopping so-called “free trade.” Today, several presidential candidates are gaining huge traction with similar opposition to NAFTA, CAFTA, and the upcoming Southern Hemisphere Asian Free Trade Agreement (SHAFTA, now called the Trans-Pacific Partnership or TPP). </p><p>Time has proven Perot right, and his arguments were consistent with a long history of American industrial success prior to the “free trade” era of the past 30+ years.  </p><p>Our radical experiment of so-called “free trade” has clearly failed America, although few Americans know why or how. Here’s the back-story. </p><p><strong>George Washington on “Made In America” goods</strong></p><p>On April 14, 1789, George Washington was out walking through the fields at Mount Vernon, his home in Virginia, when Charles Thomson, the Secretary of the Continental Congress, rode up on horseback. Thomson had a letter for Washington from the president pro-tempore of the new, constitutionally created United States Senate, telling Washington he’d just been elected president and the inauguration was set for April 30 in the nation’s capital, New York City.</p><p>This created two problems for Washington.</p><p>The first was saying goodbye to his 82-year-old mother, which the 57-year-old Washington did that night. She gave him her blessing, and told him it was the last time he’d see her alive as she was gravely ill. She died before he returned from New York. </p><p>The second was finding a suit of clothes made in America. For that, he sent a courier to his old friend and fellow general from the American Revolutionary War, Henry Knox.  </p><p>Washington couldn’t find a suit made in America because in the years prior to the American Revolution, the British East India Company (whose tea was thrown into Boston Harbor by outraged colonists after the Tea Act of 1773 gave the world’s largest transnational corporation a giant tax break) controlled the manufacture and transportation of a whole range of goods, including fine clothing.  </p><p>Cotton and wool could be grown and sheared in the colonies, but had to be sent to England to be manufactured into clothing. </p><p>This was a routine policy for England, and is why until India achieved its independence in 1947, Mahatma Gandhi (who was assassinated a year later) illegally sat with his spinning wheel for his lectures and spun daily in his own home. It was, like his Salt March, a protest against the colonial practices of England and an entreaty to his fellow Indians to make their own clothes to gain independence from British companies and institutions. </p><p>Fortunately for George Washington, an American clothing company had been established on April 28, 1783, in Hartford, Connecticut by a man named Daniel Hinsdale, and they produced high-quality woolen and cotton clothing, and also made things from imported silk.</p><p>It was to Hinsdale’s company that Knox turned, and helped Washington get – in time for his inauguration two weeks later – a nice, but not excessively elegant, brown American-made suit. (He wore British black later for the celebrations and the most famous painting.) </p><p>When Washington became president in 1789, most of America’s personal and industrial products of any significance were manufactured in England or in its colonies.  Washington asked his first Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton, what could be done about that, and Hamilton came up with an 11-point plan to build American manufacturing, which he presented to Congress in 1791.  </p><p>By 1793, most of its points had either been made into law by Congress or formulated into policy by either Washington or the various states. </p><p>Those strategic proposals built the greatest industrial powerhouse the world had ever seen, and were only abandoned, after more than 200 successful years, during the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George HW Bush, and Bill Clinton (and remain abandoned to this day, as President Obama prepares to further expand “free trade”).  </p><p>China, instead of following our recent path, implemented most of Hamilton’s plan, and it brought about a remarkable transformation of that nation in just a single generation. </p><p>Hamilton’s 11-point plan for “American Manufactures” laid out how to do it (it’s at the end of this article).</p><p>He looked at the nation and determined what needed to be done to rebuild the country after the Revolutionary War had devastated it, and subservience to England’s Tudor Plan “free trade” policies had left us without any significant domestic industrial base. </p><p><strong>The High Cost of “Free Trade”</strong></p><p>During the 1930s, none of the “Asian powerhouse economies” had adopted Hamilton’s industrialization strategies, so when Franklin Roosevelt put money into worker’s pockets through the New Deal and they bought toys or clothes or radios, all of those items were made in Alabama or Connecticut or Michigan.  Now they’re made in China, which experienced a “labor shortage” in 2009 causing its average wage to increase to $1.14 an hour from eighty cents, and its economy to grow by over 8 percent. </p><p>China has been following the lead of Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea during the past half century, and has become an industrial powerhouse as a result.  And, ironically, each of those countries got their strategy from us: George Washington’s Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton, proposed it in 1791, and by 1793 most of the parts of his Report on the Subject of Manufactures had been instituted as a series of legislative and policy steps. </p><p>And it didn’t start with Hamilton; he was just building on King Henry VII’s “Tudor Plan” of 1485, which turned England from a backwater state with raw wool as its chief export into a major developed state which produced fine clothing and other textile products from wool.  </p><p>King Henry VII accomplished this by severely restricting the export of wool from England with high export tariffs and restricting the import of finished wool products with high import tariffs. </p><p>King Henry learned this from the Dutch.  They copied the Romans.  And the Romans got it from the Greeks, three thousand years ago.  It’s not new, and it’s not rocket science. </p><p>Nonetheless, President Obama continues to follow his predecessors – Reagan, Bush, Clinton, and Bush – in the religious belief that “free trade” will save us all.  It’s nonsense. “Free trade" is a guaranteed ticket to the poorhouse for any nation, and the evidence is overwhelming.  (Ironically, the concept of “free trade” was introduced by Henry VII in 1487 as something that England should encourage other countries to do while it maintained protectionism.  It was invented as a scam.)</p><p>A more contemporary example of the application of the wisdom of trade protectionism can be seen in South Korea. </p><p>In the 1960s, Korea was an undeveloped nation whose major exports were human hair (for wigs) and fish, and their average annual income was around $400 per working family.  Today it’s a major industrial power with an average annual per capita income of over $32,000, and it beats the US in its rate of college attendance, exports, and lifespan. </p><p>South Korea did all this in a single generation by closing its economy and promoting its export industries. A decade earlier Japan had done the same thing. Forty years earlier Germany had done it.  </p><p>In July, 2009, with no evident irony or understanding of how South Korea went about becoming a modern economic powerhouse, President Obama lectured the countries of Africa during his visit to Ghana. As the New York Times reported: “Mr. Obama said that when his father came to the United States, his home country of Kenya had an economy as large as that of South Korea per capita.  Today, he noted, Kenya remains impoverished and politically unstable, while South Korea has become an economic powerhouse.”</p><p>In the same day’s newspaper, the lead editorial, titled “Tangled Trade Talks,” repeated the essence of the mantra of its confused op-ed writer, Thomas L. Friedman, that so-called “free trade” is the solution to a nation’s economic ills. </p><p>“There are few things that could do more damage to the already battered global economy than an old-fashioned trade war,” Friedman opined in the Times. “So we have been increasingly worried by the protectionist rhetoric and policies being espoused by politicians across the globe and in this country.” </p><p>But South Korea did not ride the “free trade” train to success.  </p><p>South Korean economist Ha-Joon Chang details South Korea’s economic ascent in his 2008 book Bad Samaritans: The Myth of Free Trade and the Secret History of Capitalism.  </p><p>In 1961, South Korea was as poor as Kenya, with an $82 per capita annual income and many obstacles to economic strength.  The country’s main exports were primary commodities such as tungsten, fish, and human hair for wigs. That’s how the Korean technology giant, Samsung, started—by exporting fish, fruits and vegetables. Today, it’s the world’s largest conglomerate by revenue ($173 billion in 2008). By throwing out “free trade” and embracing “protectionism” during the 1960s, South Korea managed to do in 50 years what it took the United States 100 years and Britain 150 years to do.</p><p>After a military coup in 1961, General Park Chung-hee implemented short-term plans for South Korea’s economic development.  He instituted the Heavy and Chemical Industrialization program, and South Korea’s first steel mill and modern shipyard went into production.  </p><p>In addition, South Korea began producing its own cars and used import tariffs to discourage imports.  </p><p>Electronics, machinery, chemicals plants soon followed, all sponsored or subsidized and tariff-protected by the government. </p><p>Between 1972 and 1979 the per capita income grew over 5 times – more than 500 percent!  </p><p>In addition, South Korean citizens adopted new protectionist slogans.  For example, it was viewed as civic duty to shame anyone caught smoking foreign cigarettes. </p><p>All money made from exports went into developing domestic South Korean industry.  South Korea enacted import bans, high tariffs and excise taxes on thousands of products. </p><p>In the 80’s South Korea was still far from the industrialized West but it had built a solid middle class. South Korea’s transformation was, to quote Chang, as if “Haiti had turned into Switzerland.” This transformation was accomplished through protecting fledgling industries with high tariffs and subsides, and only gradually opening itself to global completion.  </p><p>In addition, the South Korean government heavily subsidized many of the larger industries at startup, at least until they were globally competitive. The government carefully regulated the banks and therefore the credit.  It controlled foreign exchange and used its currency reserves to import machinery and industrial imports. </p><p>At the same time, the South Korean government tightly controlled foreign investment in that nation.  Korea focused on exporting basic manufactured goods to fuel and protect its high-tech industries with tariffs and subsides.</p><p>Had South Korea adopted the “free trade” policies espoused by Friedman and the New York Times, it would still be exporting fish.</p><p>Another favorite Freidman free-trade example is the success of Toyota’s Lexus luxury car, immortalized in his book The Lexus and the Olive Tree. </p><p>But again, the reality is quite different than what Friedman naively portrays in his book.  In fact, Japan subsidized Toyota not only in its development but even after it failed terribly in the American markets in the late 1950’s.  In addition, early in Toyota’s development, Japan kicked out foreign competitors like GM. </p><p>Thus, because the Japanese government financed Toyota at a loss for roughly 20 years, built high tariff and other barriers to competitive imports, and initially subsidized exports, auto manufacturing was able to get a strong foothold and we now think of Japanese exports being synonymous with automobiles.</p><p><strong>Founding Father Knows Best</strong></p><p>For about 200 years, we understood well the benefits of tariffs, subsidized exports and protectionist policies in the United States. Had the fathers of the United States like Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Andrew Jackson or Ulysses Grant applied for IMF loans, they would have been denied: All of them believed in high tariffs and a heavy control of foreign investment, and considered “free trade” to be absurd.</p><p>But it was another Founding Father—Alexander Hamilton—who knew best how to spawn American industry to make the country independent and competitive. As the nation’s first Treasury Secretary, Hamilton submitted his Report on the Subject of Manufactures in 1791 to the US Congress, outlining the need for our government to foster new industries through “bounties” (subsidies) and subsequently protect them from foreign imports until they become globally competitive. </p><p>Additionally, he proposed a roadmap for American industrial development.  These steps included protective tariffs on imports, import bans, subsides, export bans on selected materials, and the development of product standards. </p><p>It was this approach of putting America first that our government followed for most of our history, with average tariffs of 30 percent through the 19th and 20th centuries. There is no denying that it helped turn America into an industrial and economic juggernaut in the mid-20th century and beyond.  </p><p>The three periods when we radically dropped tariffs – for three years in 1857, for nine years in 1913, and by Reagan in 1987 – were all followed by economic disasters, particularly for small American manufacturers.</p><p>The post-Reagan era has been particularly destructive to our economy because not only did we mostly eliminate the tariffs, but we became “free trade” proponents on the international stage. After Reagan blew out our tariffs in the 1980s, and Clinton kicked the door totally open with GATT, NAFTA, and the WTO, our average tariffs are now around 2 percent.  </p><p>And the predictable result has been the hemorrhaging of American manufacturing capacity to those countries that do protect their industries through high import tariffs but allow exports on the cheap – particularly China and South Korea. </p><p>The irony is that we have abandoned Hamilton’s advice—and our own history—while China, South Korea, Japan and other nations are following his prescriptions and turning into muscular and prosperous economic entities.</p><p>It’s high time we re-learned Alexander Hamilton’s lessons for our nation.</p><p>The first third of Hamilton’s report deals with Jefferson’s objections to it (withdrawn later) which were primarily over the subsidies to industry as Jefferson favored America being an agricultural rather than an industrial power in 1791. After that, though, Hamilton gets to the rationale for, and the details of, his 11-point plan to turn America into an industrial power and build a strong manufacturing-based middle class.</p><p>First, Hamilton notes that real wealth doesn’t exist until somebody makes something. A “service economy” is an oxymoron – if I wash your car in exchange for your mowing my lawn, money is moving around, it’s an “economy” of some sort, but no real and lasting wealth is created. </p><p>Only through manufacturing, when $5 worth of iron ore is converted into a $2000 car door, or $1 worth of raw wool is converted into a $1000 suit, is real wealth created. Hamilton also notes that people being paid for creating wealth (manufacturing) creates wages, which are the principal engine of demand, which drives an economy. And both come from a generally protectionist foreign trade policy.</p><p>In an early version of Keynes, Hamilton noted that when people make things, they also earn money, which will be used to buy more things, thus creating a real internal domestic economy with things of real value circulating in it. </p><p>In addition, Hamilton saw a clear government role in fostering manufacturing, not just in subsidizing it until it could compete on its own, but also in crafting a foreign trade policy that protected American enterprises. </p><p>“‘Tis for the United States to consider by what means they can render themselves least dependent,” of other nation’s manufactures, Hamilton wrote, “on the combinations, right or wrong, of foreign policy.”</p><p>But there were many voices in 1791 – the loudest being the young Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson – who argued that instead of becoming an industrial power we should remain an agricultural nation. </p><p>Hamilton believed both were possible, and there would even be a desirable synergy between the two. He felt that if America wanted to be competitive, it couldn’t just leave it to the so-called free market. </p><p>Government ought to play a role in fostering a strong industrial base, he argued: “To produce the desirable changes, as early as may be expedient, may therefore require the incitement and patronage of government.” </p><p>In fact, Hamilton believed success was not possible without government. “To be enabled to contend with success, it is evident that the interference and aid of their own government are indispensable,” he wrote.</p><p>His reasons were pretty straightforward: it would take government’s power to set up a playing field for the game of business where investors who would otherwise be able to make more money overseas would keep their money in the United States. </p><p>“There are weighty inducements [in my plan] to prefer the employment of capital at home even at less profit, to an investment of it abroad, though with greater gain,” he wrote. </p><p>Having provided this overview, Hamilton got right to the meat of the matter – his 11-step plan (see end of article). It called for government to take an active role in developing its own industry, in discouraging imports through tariffs and prohibitions, in building transportation routes at home for internal trade, and in subsidizing manufacturing until companies become strong enough to compete on their own.</p><p>Consider the historical impact of Hamilton’s plan, which was adopted in a series of piecemeal legislative and executive action steps mostly by 1793: Tariffs became so important that they constituted pretty much the only source of revenue for the federal government until the Civil War, were the single largest source of federal revenue from then until World War I. And even when government had grown exponentially as we led up to World War II, fully a third of all federal revenues came from tariffs.</p><p>It is only since the Reagan era and subsequently with Bush, Clinton, Bush, and now Obama, that we have forsaken tariffs and have been chanting the “free trade” mantra—to our own detriment and destruction. A protectionist approach, including tariffs, is what the USA needs so it can get back in the game of manufacturing—before it’s too late.</p><p><strong>How badly Reaganism and “free trade” have damaged us</strong></p><p>When Ronald Reagan came into office, as the result of 190 years of Hamilton’s plan, the United States was the world’s largest importer of raw materials; the world’s largest exporter of finished, manufactured goods; and the world’s largest creditor.  </p><p>After 34 years of Reaganomics, we’ve completely flipped this upside down.  We’ve become the world’s largest exporter of raw materials, the world’s largest importer of finished goods, and the world’s largest debtor.  We now export raw materials to China, and buy from them manufactured goods.  And we borrow from them to do it.  Our trade debt right now stands at over $11 trillion, and it’s the principle reason why one-seventh of all assets in the United States are foreign-owned. </p><p>China’s 2009 “stimulus package” – about the same size as ours at around $800 billion – could explicitly only be spent on Chinese-made products from Chinese-owned companies employing only Chinese workers.  Ditto for the 2009 Japanese version of “Cash for Clunkers,” which mandated the purchase of exclusively Japanese-made cars.  </p><p>Here’s how we can unwind the damage Reagan and Clinton did to our nation:</p><p>First, go back to charging an import tax – a tariff – on goods made overseas that compete with domestic manufacturers, while keeping import taxes low on raw materials that domestic industries need. </p><p>It has become unfashionable in the post-Reagan era to talk about tariffs.  </p><p>An easy way of explaining tariffs is to say, “If there’s a dollar’s worth of labor in a pair of shoes manufactured in the United States, and you can make the same pair of shoes with twenty cents worth of labor in China, then we’re going to charge you an eighty-cent tariff when those shoes are imported into the United States. If you can make them with fifty cents of labor in Mexico, then our import tariff from Mexico is fifty cents.” </p><p>In short, import duties are used to equalize manufacturing costs and protect domestic industries.</p><p>And the tariffs’ equalizing effects shouldn’t just be limited to labor.  Products from other countries where toxic chemicals can just be poured into rivers (eventually ending up in the oceans we all share) instead of being more expensively disposed of or recycled, should be assessed a tariff to reflect that environmental cost.  The same should apply to the way they generate their electricity (for example, using old coal-fired power plants that belch toxins into our air) to manufacture parts for the products.  </p><p>Second, pull us out of the WTO, NAFTA, CAFTA, and the rest, and mandate that all purchases made with US taxpayers’ dollars be spent on goods and services provided by American workers employed by US-domiciled and incorporated businesses on American soil. No exceptions. (No more hiring Dubai-based Halliburton, for example.)</p><p>Third, have the government support new and emerging industries through tax policy, direct grants, and funding things like the National Institutes of Health, which funds most university research that leads to profitable new drugs for our pharmaceutical companies. </p><p>In Japan, it’s the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MITI) which helped develop the Lexus so beloved by Thomas Friedman. There is no shame in subsidizing our own companies—as long as they show their loyalty to the U.S. by employing American workers, investing in American enterprises, and not engaging in international business ventures that hurt America. </p><p>Then there are other tax incentives and domestic policies to pursue that will benefit the creation of jobs at home. Encourage Americans to save, so there’s a strong pool of investment capital for businesses to borrow against and grow – the best way to do this is to offer people an above-the-inflation-rate interest rate on savings.  </p><p>This could easily be accomplished by offering US government savings bonds with a guaranteed rate of return (for example, inflation plus 3 points) and limiting their purchase to people who have a net worth of less than $5 million and selling no more than $1 million per person.  This would establish a benchmark against which banks would have to compete, stimulating private banks and credit unions to offer higher returns on savings.</p><p>These are bold moves, no doubt, for any president or pa“Free Trade” Isn’t Free and Doesn’t Workrty to make, but they do have the advantage of pleasing the Tea Party populists as well as the Coffee Party progressive populists. </p><p>Of course, such protectionist policies would not sit well with some of the multinational conglomerates, whose loyalty is not to America, but only to their investors and shareholders. A lot of them manufacture products in China or Vietnam and sell them here at a huge profit without giving a damn about the consequences of these actions to American workers. </p><p>But if we want to “bring our jobs back home to America,” as politicians keep saying, all we need do is repudiate Reaganism and so-called “free trade” and go back to what George Washington and Alexander Hamilton worked out in 1791 that served our country so well until Reagan and Clinton dismantled them in the 1980s and 1990s. </p><p>Footnote:  Here is part of Alexander Hamilton’s “Report on Manufactures” 11-point plan to build America, submitted to Congress in 1791 and largely instituted in a variety of ways by Congress and the George Washington administration by 1793.  It stood in large part and built American industry from 1793 until the Reagan Revolution, and is now (in more modern forms, including using VAT taxes as functional tariffs, and “national security” as a form of “prohibition”) the principle trade policy for countries like China, Germany, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan: </p><p>A full view having now been taken of the inducements to the promotion of manufactures in the United States, accompanied with an examination of the principal objections which are commonly urged in opposition, it is proper, in the next place, to consider the means by which it may be effected. In order to a better judgment of the means proper to be resorted to by the United States, it will be of use to advert to those which have been employed with success in other countries. The principal of these are:</p><p><strong>1. Protecting duties or duties on those foreign articles which are the rivals of the domestic ones intended to be encouraged.</strong><br />Duties of this nature evidently amount to a virtual bounty on the domestic fabrics; since, by enhancing the charges on foreign articles, they enable the, national manufacturers to undersell ;all their foreign competitors. It has the additional recommendation of being a resource of revenue. Indeed, all tile duties imposed on imported articles, though with an exclusive view to revenue, have the effect, in contemplation, and, except where they fill on raw materials, wear a beneficent aspect towards the manufacturers of the country.</p><p><strong>2. Prohibitions of rival articles, or duties equivalent to prohibitions.</strong><br />This is another and an efficacious means of encouraging national manufactures; Of duties equivalent to prohibitions, there are examples in the laws of the United States, but they are not numerous. It might almost be said, by the principles of distributive justice; certainly, by the duty of endeavoring to secure to their own citizens a reciprocity of advantages.</p><p><strong>3. Prohibitions of the exportation of the Materials of Manufactures.</strong><br />The desire of securing a cheap and plentiful supply for the national workmen, and where the article is either peculiar to tile country, or of peculiar quality there, the jealousy of enabling foreign workmen to rival those of the nation with its own materials, are the leading motives to this species of regulation. </p><p>It is seen at once, that its immediate operation is to abridge the demand, and keep down the price of the produce of some other branch of industry -generally speaking, of agriculture-to the prejudice of those who carry it on; and though, if it be really essential to the prosperity of any very important national manufacture, it may happen that those who are injured, in the first instance, may, be, eventually, indemnified by the superior steadiness of an extensive domestic market, depending on that prosperity; yet, in a matter in which there is so much room for nice and difficult combinations, in which, such opposite considerations combat each other, prudence seems to dictate that the expedient in question ought to be indulged with a sparing hand.</p><p><strong>4. Pecuniary bounties [Support Payments].</strong><br />This has been found one of the most efficacious means of encouraging manufactures, and is, in some views, the best. Though it has not yet been practised upon by the Government of the United States (unless the allowance on the expiration of dried and pickled fish and salted meat could be considered as a bounty), and though it is less favored by public opinion than some other modes, its advantages are these:</p><p>A. It is a species of encouragement more positive and direct than any other, and, for that very reason, has a more immediate tendency to stimulate and uphold new enterprises, increasing the chances of profit, and diminishing the risks of loss, in the first attempts. </p><p>B. It avoids the inconvenience of a temporary augmentation of price, which is incident to some other modes; or it produces it to, a less degree, either by making no addition to the charges on the rival foreign article, as in the case of protecting duties, or by making a smaller addition. The first happens when the fund for the bounty is derived from a different object (which may or may not increase the price of some other article, according to the nature of that object), the second, when the fund is derived from the same, or a similar object, of foreign manufacture. </p><p>One per cent duty on the foreign article, converted into a bounty on the domestic, will have an equal effect with a duty of two per cent., exclusive of such bounty; and the price of the foreign commodity is liable to be raised, in the one case, in the proportion of one per cent; in the other in that of two per cent. Indeed the bounty, when drawn from another source, is calculated to promote a reduction of price; because, without laying any new charge on the foreign article, it serves to introduce a competition with it, and to increase the total quantity of the article in the market.</p><p>C. Bounties have not, like high protecting duties, a tendency to produce scarcity. </p><p>D. Bounties are, sometimes, not only the best, but the only proper expedient for uniting the encouragement of a new object.<br />The true way to conciliate these two interests is to lay a duty on foreign manufactures of the material, the growth of which is desired to be encouraged, and to apply the produce of that duty, by way of bounty, either upon the production of the material itself, or upon its manufacture at home, or upon both.</p><p>Pecuniary bounties are, in most cases, indispensable to the introduction of a new branch. Bounties are especially essential in regard to articles upon which those foreigners, who have been accustomed to supply a country, are in the practice of granting them.</p><p>The continuance of bounties on manufactures long established, must almost always be of questionable policy: because a presumption would arise, in every such case, that there were natural and inherent impediments to success. But, in new undertakings, they are as justifiable as they are oftentimes necessary.</p><p><strong>5. Premiums. </strong>These are of a nature allied to bounties, though distinguishable from them in some important features. Bounties are applicable to the whole quantity of an article produced, or manufactured, or exported, and involve a correspondent expense. Premiums serve to reward some particular excellence or superiority, some extraordinary exertion or skill, and are dispensed only in a small number of cases. But their effect is to stimulate general effort;</p><p><strong>6. The exemption of the materials of manufactures from duty.</strong><br />The policy of that exemption, as a general rule, particularly in reference to new establishments, is obvious. Of a nature, hearing some affinity to that policy, is the regulation which exempts from duty the tools and implements, as well as the books, clothes, and household furniture, of foreign artists, who come to reside in the United States-an advantage already secured to them by the laws of the Union, and which it is, in every view, proper to continue.</p><p><strong>7. Drawbacks of the duties which are imposed on the materials of manufactures.</strong><br />Such drawbacks are familiar in countries which systematically pursue the business of manufactures; which furnishes an argument for the observance of a similar policy in the United States; and the idea has been adopted by the laws of the Union, in the instances of salt and molasses. It is believed that it will be found advantageous to extend it to some other articles.</p><p><strong>8. The encouragement of new intentions and discoveries at home, and of the introduction into the United States of such as may have been made in other countries; particularly, those which relate to machinery.</strong><br />This is among the most useful and unexceptionable of the aids which can be given to manufactures. The usual means of that encouragement are pecuniary rewards, and, for a time, exclusive privileges. The first must be employed, according to the occasion, and the utility of the invention or discovery. For the last, so far w respects " authors and inventors," provision has been made by law. It is customary with manufacturing nations to prohibit, under severe penalties, the exportation of implements and machines, which they have either invented or improved. As far as prohibitions tend to prevent foreign competitors from deriving the benefit of the improvements made at home, they tend to increase the advantages of those by whom they may have been introduced, and operate as an encouragement to exertion.</p><p><strong>9. Judicious regulations for the inspection of manufactured commodities [Consumer Protections]</strong>.<br />This is not among the least important of the means by which the prosperity of manufactures may be promoted. It is, indeed, in many cases, one of the most essential. Contributing to prevent frauds upon consumers at home, and exporters to foreign countries; to improve the quality, and preserve the character of the national manufactures…</p><p><strong>10. The facilitating of pecuniary remittances from place to place [Banking] --</strong><br />A general circulation of bank paper, which is to be expected from the institution lately established, will be a most valuable mean to this end.</p><p><strong>11. The facilitating of the transportation of commodities [Infrastructure].</strong><br />There is, perhaps, scarcely any thing which has been better calculated to assist the manufacturers of Great Britain, than the melioration of the public roads of that kingdom,  and the great progress which has been of late made in opening canals. Of the former, the United States stand much in need;</p><p>These examples, it is to be hoped, will stimulate the exertions of the Government and citizens of every State. There can certainly be no object more worthy of the cares of the local administrations; and it were to be wished that there was no doubt of the power of the National Government to lend its direct aid on a comprehensive plan. </p><p>This is one of those improvements which could be prosecuted with more efficacy by the whole, than by any part or parts of the Union. "Good roads, canals, and navigable rivers, by diminishing the expense of carriage, put the remote parts of a country more nearly upon a level with those in the neighborhood of the town. They are, upon that account, the greatest of all improvement." </p><p>It may confidently be affirmed, that there is scarcely any thing which has been devised, better calculated to excite a general spirit of improvement, than the institutions of this nature. The are truly invaluable. In countries where there is great private wealth, much may be effected by the voluntary contributions of patriotic individuals; but in a community situated like that of the United States, the public purse must supply the deficiency of private resource. In what can it be so useful, as in prompting and improving the efforts of industry?</p><p>All which is humbly submitted,</p><p>ALEXANDER HAMILTON,</p><p>Secretary of the Treasury</p><p>i From Our Country, published in 1877 by Benson J. Lossing, <a href="http://www.publicbookshelf.com/public_html/Our_Country_vol_2/georgewas_bfb.html ">http://www.publicbookshelf.com/public_html/Our_Country_vol_2/georgewas_b...</a></p><p>ii Washington’s American Made Inaugural Clothes, by Rosemary E. Bachelor, published at Suite 101, and educational site, <a href="http://americanhistory.suite101.com/article.cfm/washingtons-american-made-inaugural-clothes ">http://americanhistory.suite101.com/article.cfm/washingtons-american-mad...</a></p><p>iii Defying Global Slump, China Has Labor Shortage By KEITH BRADSHER New York Times </p><p>Published: February 26, 2010 “As American workers struggle with near double-digit unemployment, unskilled factory workers here in China’s industrial heartland are being offered signing bonuses.</p><p>Factory wages have risen as much as 20 percent in recent months.”</p><p>iv The New York Times, “Obama Wins More Food Aid but Presses African Nations on Corruption” by Peter Baker and Rachel Donadio, July 11, 2009.</p> Wed, 19 Aug 2015 09:32:00 -0700 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1039915 at http://www.alternet.org Economy Economy News & Politics trade free trade fair trade tpp wto nafta economics Why Surprising Numbers of Republicans Have Been Voting for Bernie Sanders in Vermont http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/why-surprising-numbers-republicans-have-been-voting-bernie-sanders-vermont <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">If Sanders ends up being the Democratic nominee for president, his GOP opponent is going to have a hard time beating him.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_259200623.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Ann Coulter knows who she wants to be the Democratic nominee for president, and who that person is, well, it <a href="http://ringoffireradio.com/2015/08/coulter-repeats-what-is-becoming-obvious-to-the-gop-they-dont-want-to-run-against-bernie/" target="_blank">may surprise you</a>.</p><p>She wants Hillary Clinton to be the nominee, and thinks that if Bernie gets the nod, he'll beat whoever the Republicans come up with to run against him.</p><p>You won't hear me say this often, but Ann Coulter is right.</p><p>If Bernie Sanders ends up being the Democratic nominee for president, and it looks more and more every day like he will be, his Republican opponent is going to have a very hard time beating him.</p><p>And that's because of all the Democratic candidates running, Bernie Sanders has the best chance of capturing Republican votes.</p><p>I've seen how Bernie does this, up close and personal.</p><p>Despite its reputation as a place filled with liberal hippies, Vermont, like most of rural northern New England, is home to a lot of conservatives.</p><p>Anyone running for statewide office there needs to win these conservatives' votes, and Bernie is great at doing that.</p><p>Back in 2000 when Louise and I were living in Vermont, it wasn't all that uncommon to see his signs on the same lawn as signs that said "W for President."</p><p>Seriously, I'm not kidding.</p><p>And as NPR's "Morning Edition" <a href="http://www.npr.org/2014/07/10/330193246/could-a-socialist-senator-become-a-national-brand" target="_blank">found out last year</a>, some of Bernie's biggest fans are in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, the poorest and most conservative part of the state.</p><p>It's people from the Northeast Kingdom who've overwhelmingly elected Bernie to almost 20 years in Congress and two straight terms as senator, and it's people like them in the rest of the country who will probably send Bernie to the White House if he gets the Democratic nomination for president.</p><p>So why is that?</p><p>Why is Bernie Sanders, a Democratic socialist, so popular with people who should hate "socialism?"</p><p>The answer is pretty simple.</p><p>While Americans disagree on social issues like gay marriage and abortion, they're actually pretty unified on the bread and butter economic issues that Bernie has made the core of his campaign.</p><p>In fact, a <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.boldprogressives.org/images/Big_Ideas-Polling_PDF-1.pdf" target="_blank">recent poll by the Progressive Change Institute</a>, shows that Americans overwhelmingly agree with Sanders on key issues like education, health care and the economy.</p><p>Like Sanders, 75 percent of Americans poll support fair trade that "protects workers, the environment and jobs."</p><p>Seventy-one percent support giving all students access to a debt-free college education.</p><p>Seventy-one percent support a massive infrastructure spending program aimed at rebuilding our broken roads and bridges, and putting people back to work.</p><p>Seventy percent support expanding Social Security.</p><p>Fifty-nine percent support raising taxes on the wealthy so that millionaires pay the same amount in taxes as they did during the Reagan administration.</p><p>Fifty-eight percent support breaking up the big banks.</p><p>Fifty-five percent support a financial transaction or Robin Hood tax.</p><p>Fifty-one percent support single payer health care, and so and so on.</p><p>Pretty impressive, right?</p><p>And here's the thing - supporting Social Security, free college, breaking up the big banks, aren't "progressive" policies, they're just common sense, and 60 years ago they <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/s3.boldprogressives.org/images/Big_Ideas-Polling_PDF-1.pdf" target="_blank">would have</a> put Bernie Sanders smack dab in the mainstream of my father's Republican Party.</p><p>This is why Ann Coulter is so scared of Bernie becoming the Democratic nominee.</p><p>She knows that he speaks to the populist, small "d" democratic values that everyday Americans care about, regardless of their political affiliation.</p><p>That's the really radical part of Bernie's 2016 campaign, and what's what maybe, just maybe, might make him the 45th president of the United States.</p> Tue, 18 Aug 2015 11:23:00 -0700 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1041101 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics Election 2016 News & Politics bernie sanders election 2016 Jimmy Carter: American Democracy Has Been Subverted into an 'Oligarchy' with 'Unlimited Political Bribery' http://www.alternet.org/jimmy-carter-american-democracy-has-been-subverted-oligarchy-unlimited-political-bribery <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"> &quot;The incumbents, Democrats, and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves.&quot;</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/carter_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines an 'oligarchy' as: "A government in which a small group exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes."</p><p>Former President Jimmy Carter had some choice words for our form of government, post-Citizen's United, <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDsPWmioSHg" target="_blank">on my radio program this week.</a>. When I asked him his thoughts on the state of American politics since five right-wing justices on the US Supreme Court opened the doors to "unlimited money" in our political discourse via Citizens United, Carter was blunt and to the point.</p><p dir="ltr">“It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors, and U.S. senators and congress members.</p><p dir="ltr">"So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over."</p><p dir="ltr">I asked him then what might change things, and he said it would take a “horrible, disgraceful” corruption scandal (think Nixon) that would "turn the public against it [Citizens United], and maybe even the Congress and the Supreme Court."</p><p dir="ltr">Carter added, "The incumbents, Democrats, and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody who’s already in Congress has a lot more to sell to an avid contributor than somebody who’s just a challenger, so it benefits both parties.”</p><p dir="ltr">Carter's observations validate <a href="http://www.truth-out.org/news/item/2443-unequal-protection-corporate-control-of-politics" target="_blank">Justice John Paul Stevens' dissent in the Citizens United case</a> (Ginsberg, Bryer, and Sotomayor concurring), when Stevens wrote about what he foresaw as the future of American politics because of the Citizens United decision that was handed down that day:</p><p dir="ltr">"In addition to this immediate drowning out of noncorporate voices, there may be deleterious effects that follow soon thereafter [this decision]. Corporate ‘domination’ of electioneering can generate the impression that corporations dominate our democracy.</p><p dir="ltr">"When citizens turn on their televisions and radios before an election and hear only corporate electioneering, they may lose faith in their capacity, as citizens, to influence public policy. A Government captured by corporate interests, they may come to believe, will be neither responsive to their needs nor willing to give their views a fair hearing.</p><p dir="ltr">"The predictable result is cynicism and disenchantment: an increased perception that large spenders ‘call the tune’ and a reduced ‘willingness of voters to take part in democratic governance.’ To the extent that corporations are allowed to exert undue influence in electoral races, the speech of the eventual winners of those races may also be chilled.</p><p dir="ltr">"Politicians who fear that a certain corporation can make or break their reelection chances may be cowed into silence about that corporation. On a variety of levels, unregulated corporate electioneering might diminish the ability of citizens to 'hold officials accountable to the people,’ and disserve the goal of a public debate that is 'uninhibited, robust, and wide-open.' At the least, I stress again, a legislature is entitled to credit these concerns and to take tailored measures in response."</p><p dir="ltr">President Carter is right. Corporate interests (oil companies, for example, are why Republicans and a few bought-out Democrats deny climate change) and the billionaires who got rich off their corporations have seized control of most of our government.  </p><p dir="ltr">One solution is a simple constitutional amendment that makes it clear that corporations are not, and don’t have the rights of, human persons; and that reverses the 1976 Buckley decision by saying explicitly that spending money on politics is a behavior that can be regulated, not a form of “speech” with broad immunity under the First Amendment.</p><p>Politicians are catching on. Senator Bernie Sanders, who aspires to President Carter’s old job, has not only endorsed such an amendment (he’s alone in this among all presidential candidates) but has even introduced a version of it several times into Congress.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/hDsPWmioSHg" style="box-sizing: border-box; color: rgb(51, 51, 51); font-family: Merriweather, Georgia, 'Times New Roman', Times, serif; font-size: 21.8500003814697px; line-height: 39.5727806091309px;" width="560"></iframe></p> Sat, 01 Aug 2015 08:42:00 -0700 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1040237 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics corruption Thom Hartmann: Is Donald Trump a Supporter of Scott Walker and the Koch Brothers? http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/thom-hartmann-donald-trump-supporter-scott-walker-and-koch-brothers <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Just considering one scenario. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_180341072.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>File this under “conspiracy theories,” although every day that goes by it seems to get more and more plausible.</p><p dir="ltr">Is it possible that Donald Trump’s goal in this election cycle isn’t just to become president, but to make sure that Scott Walker is the next president?  (Yes, it’s speculation, but in this policy-free “horserace” Republican primary, that’s pretty much the coin of the realm these days.)  </p><p dir="ltr">Walker, as pretty much everybody knows, is the get-along, go-along servant of the billionaires, particularly the Kochs.  Their out-of-state money helped him hold onto his governorship, and he’s faithfully followed the Koch/billionaire playbook of destroying unions, shaming the poor, defunding public education, and cutting taxes for the rich.  </p><p dir="ltr">So imagine a meeting, say, back in March, at the Koch brothers’ 30,500<a href="http://www.newsmax.com/Politics/koch-gop-presidential-hopefuls/2015/03/21/id/631684/" target="_blank">-square-foot Florida estate, where a group of billionaires – including Donald Trump –</a> each pays $25,000 to sit with each other (this part did in fact happen) and, with the blessing of our Supreme Court (Citizen’s United), pick the next Leader of the Free World. </p><p dir="ltr">“Walker’s definitely our boy,” one of them says, noting how well Walker has served the Koch and billionaire interests in blue-state Wisconsin, and is even willing to brag about trashing the poor, students, the elderly, and unionized workers.  “But we have a problem.”</p><p dir="ltr">Three other billionaires all simultaneously say the same thing: “Jeb Bush.”</p><p dir="ltr">“Yes, Jeb doesn’t need us.  He’s rich, his family is powerful, and he won’t go ‘full Libertarian’ like Walker has and will as president,” says another billionaires.  “We have to take him out of the race to make way for Walker, but he’s leading everybody else in the polls by such a big distance that he’s the ‘presumptive nominee.’  What do we do?”</p><p dir="ltr">At which point, billionaire Donald Trump stands up and says, “I’ll take care of Jeb Bush.”</p><p dir="ltr">“How?” another billionaire asks.  </p><p dir="ltr">“I’ll run for president, raise a lot of hell, and criticize Bush every day until he sinks in the polls.  And I’ll avoid trashing Walker.  Don’t worry – I know how to handle the media!”</p><p dir="ltr">“Do you know Walker?” another billionaire asks.</p><p dir="ltr">“Sure,” says The Donald.  “I maxed out my donations to him just a few months ago.  I met privately with him back in February.  I agree that he’ll do exactly what we want.  He as much as told me so to my face.”</p><p dir="ltr">And, sure enough, <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2015/02/scott-walker-donald-trump-115345.html" target="_blank">Trump met with Walker back in February, and has been a big supporter</a> – at least financially – ever since then.</p><p dir="ltr">“But you’ll need a bit of help with that,” says David Koch in this imaginary scenario.  “May I loan you one of my most loyal lieutenants?  His name is Corey Lewandowski, and he worked his way from New Hampshire head of our Americans For Prosperity, to East Coast Director, to National Director for voter registration.  He’s good, and he even successfully ran Republican Bob Ney’s campaign for Congress; he knows what he’s doing.”</p><p dir="ltr">“He’s hired!” says Trump.  “I’ll make him my campaign director!”</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/news/2015/06/the-dark-money-man-behind-the-donald/" target="_blank">And, sure enough, Trump actually did.   </a></p><p dir="ltr">So, there you have it.  Scott Walker combines the personality and political amorality of Richard Nixon – <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/06/01/1096344/-Scott-Walker-college-drop-out-or-kicked-out" target="_blank">since his campaign first started cheating when he ran for class president during his college days</a> – with the policy ideas of Ronald Reagan.  He’s the perfect front man for the conservative billionaire class.  </p><p dir="ltr">And Donald Trump would never seriously be willing to buckle down to the exhausting and detail-oriented job of being president.  But running for president, loudly and out in front of the world, in order to take down Jeb Bush?  Of course!</p><p dir="ltr">Trump has criticized – loudly – every consequential Republican running for president except Scott Walker.  The closest he’d get to even saying anything at all about Walker was in response to a direct question, and then he still refused to criticize Walker, instead referring vaguely to “<a href="http://www.jsonline.com/blogs/news/308158041.html" target="_blank">problems in Wisconsin</a>” that, presumably, Walker is helping fix.  </p><p dir="ltr">But <a href="http://www.hngn.com/articles/63417/20150124/donald-trump-slams-romney-bush-freedom-summit.htm" target="_blank">Jeb Bush has</a> had <a href="http://www.wbal.com/article/115732/3/trump-criticizes-bush-democrats-in-maryland-gop-speech" target="_blank">a special space</a> in the <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/04/12/donald-trump-mentions-jeb-bush-at-tea-party-event-gets-boos-from-the-audience/" target="_blank">Trump vitriol</a>.  Virtually every day for the past few weeks, Trump has delighted in <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2014/04/12/donald-trump-mentions-jeb-bush-at-tea-party-event-gets-boos-from-the-audience/" target="_blank">ridiculing and trashing Bush</a> – and it’s now showing in the polls, where Walker is beginning to top Bush.  </p><p dir="ltr">Soon, The Donald’s work will be done, and all that’s left is the coronation.  </p><p dir="ltr">(By the way, if you don’t think that billionaires will play dirty to take down a politician who’s in their way, consider what happened to Eliot Spitzer when he took on the billionaires on Wall Street, <a href="http://www.netflix.com/watch/70137776" target="_blank">as told so brilliantly in the movie Client 9.</a>  Spoiler alert – it was a billionaire who took him down.)</p><p> </p> Sat, 25 Jul 2015 13:39:00 -0700 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1039804 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics Election 2016 News & Politics The Right Wing donald trump scott walker koch brothers gop republicans jeb bush election 2016 What a Walker Presidency Would Look Like: Let's Turn Back the Clock to a Dark Period in US History http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/what-would-walker-presidency-would-look-lets-turn-back-clock-dark-period-us-history <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The early 1900s were no picnic for workers.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-07-17_at_11.12.21_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>If you want a glimpse of what the US would look like under President Scott Walker, you need to turn back the clock to one of the darkest periods in 20th-century US history: the Lochner era.</p><p>Here's a little history lesson, in case you don't know what I'm talking about.</p><p>In the early 1900s, a bakery owner named Joseph Lochner sued the state of New York over its Bakeshop Act, which limited the number of hours bakery employees could work to 10 hours a day and 60 hours a week. Lochner lost the case in the New York Court of Appeals, but when he took it to the Supreme Court in 1905, he got the result he wanted.</p><p>In a close 5-4 decision, the justices struck down the Bakeshop Act, citing Lochner's right under the 14th Amendment to run his business without "state interference."</p><p>Apparently, the Bakeshop Act violated that most fundamental of liberties: the right of employers to work their employees to death.</p><p>No one knew it at the time, but this was a big turning point in US history. From when the Lochner case was decided in 1905 until the mid-1930s, the Supreme Court would go on all-out rampage against workers' rights. Over the next few decades it struck down, among other things, child labor laws, minimum wage laws and laws banning "<a href="http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/07/14/3680245/scott-walker-radical-libertarianism/" target="_blank">yellow dog contracts</a>" — contracts that forced workers to say they wouldn't join a union.</p><p>The guiding principle in most or all of these decisions was the idea that the government's power to protect workers was limited to protecting their "health and safety." Under this line of thinking, things like minimum wage laws were struck down because they went beyond protecting "health and safety" and tried to actually raise the living standards of US workers. This, the Court said, was a violation of the constitutional "right to contract."</p><p>The Lochner era, as the period governed by this legal philosophy is called, lasted until 1937, when the Supreme Court ruled in the case of <em>West Coast Hotel Company v. Parrish</em> that the government did, in fact, have the power to do things like raise the minimum wage and ban child labor.</p><p>There is, by the way, no "right to contract" in the Constitution. The Supreme Court made it up, just like it made up corporate personhood and money as speech.</p><p>Today, most legal scholars place the Lochner case, as well as the anti-worker decisions that followed it, among the worst decisions in Supreme Court history. They're basically in the same category as Dred Scott case. Even Robert Bork called the Lochner case an "abomination" — and he was about as right-wing as it gets. </p><p>Everyone serious thinks the Lochner case was a big mistake. Everyone that is, except for Scott Walker.</p><p>As Ian Milhiser has pointed out in a <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/07/14/3680245/scott-walker-radical-libertarianism/" target="_blank">great piece for ThinkProgress</a>, buried deep in Scott Walker's speech announcing his run for president was a shout-out to the "health and safety" thinking of the Lochner era. He said, "As long as you don't violate the health and safety of your neighbors, go out and start your own career, build your own business, live your own life." </p><p>Sounds harmless enough, right?</p><p>It does, until you remember that this line of thinking was used to strike down child labor laws, minimum wage laws and basically any kind of law that kept workers from becoming wage slaves. Of course, there's always the chance that Walker just spoke out of tune, but given his record as one of the most anti-labor governors around, it's safe to say that he probably knew exactly what he was talking about. And that's just terrifying.</p><p>Walker is the strongest Republican candidate out there, and he's backed by a boatload of billionaire money from the Kochs on down. He could very well be our next president, and if he really is on board with this "health and safety" nonsense, you can kiss the US middle-class goodbye.</p> Fri, 17 Jul 2015 07:49:00 -0700 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1039488 at http://www.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 walker scott walker hartmann radio show The Big Political Issue Shaking Under Our Feet in the Presidential Election http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/big-political-issue-shaking-under-our-feet-presidential-election <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The consequences of America&#039;s trade deals are dominating the 2016 race. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/2048px-ross_perot_4_allan_warren.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The corporate media in America seems astonished that Donald Trump is polling so well among Republican voters and even independents. They shouldn’t be.</p><p>Remember Ross Perot? Funny little billionaire with big ears and a squeaky voice? A well-regarded but geriatric running mate? Nobody took him seriously, as he was basically a one-issue candidate, and kept saying “crazy” things like that George H.W. Bush’s people were planning to disrupt his daughter’s wedding and that, as a billionaire, he knew “how to get things done.”</p><p>Perot took almost 20 percent of the vote in the 1992 general election. Had he been a more polished candidate with a reasonable running mate, he may well have won the thing with more than a third of the vote.</p><p>Perot’s one issue was the same one Donald Trump keeps bringing up, and that the corporate media keeps ignoring: trade.</p><p>From the George Washington administration to the Reagan administration, our nation pretty much always had a trade surplus. When Reagan came into office, we were the world’s largest importer of raw materials, and the world’s largest exporter of finished, manufactured goods. We imported iron ore and wool, and exported TVs, cars, socks, shirts and Levi jeans. We were the world’s largest creditor -- we even loaned other countries money to buy our manufactured goods, through a slick little device called the Export-Import Bank.</p><p>But today, after 35 years of Reaganism and so-called “free trade,” America is now the world’s largest importer of finished, manufactured goods, and the world’s leading exporter of raw materials. We ship iron ore, coal and wood to China, and get it back in the form of computers in nice cardboard boxes.</p><p>We are also now the world’s largest debtor nation, net-in-debt to the rest of the world to the tune of $11 trillion -- our trade debt -- with an annual trade deficit that floats around $500 billion. Unlike our national debt, which is mostly owed to ourselves, our trade debt cannot be paid off by raising taxes on the rich, or inflated away by printing more dollars. It’s real, hard money, that we owe the rest of the world. And it’s killing us, as Public Citizen and other great groups <a href="http://www.citizen.org/Page.aspx?pid=4300">clearly point out</a>.</p><p>Ross Perot, it turns out, was right. Every trade deal we’ve entered into in the past 30 years has lost us jobs, industries and good wages. When Reagan came into office the nation’s largest employer was General Motors, and they paid high-school graduates a solid $40-$50/hour (in today’s dollars) with benefits and job security. Today, our nation’s largest employer is Walmart, with an average pay of around $9/hour -- and even GM is hiring new workers at $14/hour. As Bernie Sanders points out, our trade policies have been largely responsible for the loss of over 60,000 factories just in the past 15 years alone.</p><p>Donald Trump understands this, as does any businessperson who regularly travels between the US and Mexico, China, or any of the other countries to which we’ve outsourced our jobs. And he’s speaking bluntly about it to anybody who will listen.</p><p>Sure, his bashing of Mexican immigrants without documentation is stirring up part of the racist Republican base (and, apparently, drawing I-Heart-Donalds from Ted Cruz). And it's catnip for the media. But listen carefully to the applause lines when Trump speaks; his immigrant-bashing gets nothing compared to his pointing out that our trade policies are “stupid” and “insane” and that he's going to bring those factories and jobs back home from Mexico and China.</p><p>The only other serious candidate running for president right now who points out the failure of our free-trade policies is Bernie Sanders. And while it pains me to put him in the same article as Trump (Sanders is a serious statesman; Trump is a carnival barker), Bernie, like Trump, is drawing huge crowds.</p><p>Americans know we’ve been screwed by the free-traders like Reagan, both Bushs and Clinton. Average working people get it instantly. Anybody old enough to remember America before Reagan needs no prompting to go off on a tirade about how dropping our tariffs while other countries like China, Germany and South Korea keep trade barriers in place has killed much of the American industrial base and, with it, the American middle class.</p><p>But our corporate media – owned, in large part, by multinational corporations that also benefit handsomely from international trade (particularly with copyright monopolies) – will not discuss it.</p><p>Meanwhile, because that $11 trillion trade deficit represents overseas dollars that can only be finally spent here in the US, fully a seventh of all US assets are now foreign-owned. A Chinese state-owned company reportedly just <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/state-owned-chinese-chip-maker-tsinghua-unigroup-makes-23-billion-bid-for-micron-1436833492">made an offer</a> to buy Micron, the last memory-chip maker of any size left in the United States. We’re selling off our businesses and properties to buy cheap clothes and electronics made in Mexico and Asia.</p><p>We need a serious discussion in this country about trade, like we had in 1992 (only now we know how it all turned out). </p><p>If the media won’t touch it, and other candidates don’t start seriously engaging in the issue, the Donald may just ride popular disgust (among voters of both parties) to the Republican nomination. Or, as a third-party candidate, pull a Ross Perot and suck up 20 – or 30 percent or more – of the vote in the general election.</p><p>Our media and politicians need to stop the denial of the errors of both Republican and Democratic administrations over the past 40 years, and seriously discuss and re-evaluate everything from Permanent Normal Trade Relations with China, to our membership in the WTO, and our so-called “free trade” deals like NAFTA, CAFTA, and the upcoming SHAFTA (Southern Hemisphere Asian Free Trade Agreement, also known as the TPP).</p><p>And anybody who seriously wants to become president of the United States need only repudiate so-called free trade to get a serious hearing from the American working-class electorate.</p> Thu, 16 Jul 2015 13:46:00 -0700 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1039455 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics Economy News & Politics donald trump trade free trade Don't Count Out the GOP From Trying to Sink Obama's Historic Iran Deal: They've Done It Before http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/dont-count-out-gop-trying-sink-obamas-historic-iran-deal-theyve-done-it <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Republican attempts to sabotage a Democratic president&#039;s deal with Iran are nothing new.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/ff8c3b1586fd5cba5bf87b9be196e9d6117b0f51.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">Ronald Reagan – or at least his campaign – committed treason to become president, and normalizing relations with Iran may expose the whole thing.  </p><p dir="ltr">As news of a US-Iranian nuclear deal spread like wildfire this week, the mainstream media began to ask its usual set of questions. Is the deal for real? Can we trust the Iranians? And the Republicans in Congress are going totally nuts.</p><p dir="ltr">Republican attempts to sabotage a Democratic president's deal with Iran are nothing new, however. Just ask Jimmy Carter.</p><p dir="ltr">In the early fall of 1980, Carter thought he had reached a deal with newly elected Iranian President Abdolhassan Bani-Sadr over the release of the 52 hostages held by radical students at the American Embassy in Tehran. President Bani-Sadr was a moderate, and as he <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Global-Viewpoint/2013/0305/Argo-helps-Iran-s-dictatorship-harms-democracy/%28page%29/2" target="_blank">explained</a> in an editorial in the Christian Science Monitor published on March 5, 2013, he had successfully run for president of Iran on the popular position of releasing the hostages:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">"I openly opposed the hostage-taking throughout the election campaign.... I won the election with over 76 percent of the vote.... Other candidates also were openly against hostage-taking, and overall, 96 percent of votes in that election were given to candidates who were against it [hostage-taking]."</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">President Carter was confident that with Bani-Sadr's help, he could end the embarrassing hostage crisis that had been a thorn in his political side ever since it began in November 1979. But Carter underestimated the lengths his opponent in the 1980 presidential election, California governor Ronald Reagan, would go to win the presidency.</p><p dir="ltr">Behind Carter's back, the Reagan campaign had previously <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/Global-Viewpoint/2013/0305/Argo-helps-Iran-s-dictatorship-harms-democracy/%28page%29/2" target="_blank">worked out a deal</a> with the leader of Iran's radical faction, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini, to keep the hostages in captivity until after the 1980 presidential election in order to humiliate Carter and hand the election to Reagan. This was nothing short of treason.</p><p dir="ltr">As President Bani-Sadr wrote for the Monitor, “I was deposed in June 1981 as a result of a coup against me. After arriving in France, I told a BBC reporter that I had left Iran to expose the symbiotic relationship between Khomeinism and Reaganism. Ayatollah Khomeini and Ronald Reagan had organized a clandestine negotiation, later known as the 'October Surprise,' which prevented the attempts by myself and then-US President Jimmy Carter to free the hostages before the 1980 US presidential election took place.”</p><p dir="ltr">The Reagan campaign's secret negotiations with Khomeini -- the so-called "October Surprise" -- were successful in sabotaging Carter and Bani-Sadr's attempts to free the hostages. And as President Bani-Sadr <a href="http://www.csmonitor.com/1981/0622/062239.html" target="_blank">told the Christian Science Monitor</a>, "The fact that they were not released tipped the results of the [1980] election in Reagan's favor."</p><p dir="ltr">Iran released the hostages on Jan. 20, 1981, at the exact moment Ronald Reagan was sworn into office, by way of saying, “We kept up our part of the deal; now we expect you to start shipping us those weapons you promised.”</p><p dir="ltr">That October Surprise emboldened the radical forces inside Iran. A politically weakened Bani-Sadr was overthrown in June 1981 and replaced with Mohammed Ali Rajai, a favorite of Khomeini's.</p><p dir="ltr">The October Surprise also led to the deaths of thousands of innocent people around the world, and in Central America in particular. Reagan took money from the Iranians and used that money to destabilize Nicaragua, Honduras and El Salvador in ways that still haunt the region. And he set the Supreme Court (by appointing Scalia and two other right-wingers) and the nation on a course that would see the destruction of much of the New Deal and the evisceration of America’s middle class.</p><p dir="ltr">But those are just the most obvious results of the October Surprise. If Carter were able to free the hostages like he and Bani-Sadr had planned, Carter would have won re-election. After all, he was leading in most polls in the months leading up to the election, and most Americans saw Reagan as a right-wing radical shill for the billionaire class (history proved them right).</p><p dir="ltr">So, now that the doors of Tehran may be thrown open to the press, Republican leadership is facing a huge crisis: Saint Ronnie could be exposed. If former Iranian president Bani-Sadr is telling the truth – and all the evidence (including the fact that Reagan was selling weapons to Iran in violation of US law) points to his treason -- then there’s certainly evidence of it floating around in Tehran. If that evidence surfaces, it could make for considerable discomfort on the Republican side of the aisle.</p><p dir="ltr">Of course, this is not the first time a Republican presidential candidate committed treason to gain the White House. Consider the case of Richard Nixon.</p><p dir="ltr">In the fall of 1968, President Lyndon Johnson had finally negotiated a tentative agreement to end the Vietnam war. But Richard Nixon knew that if the war continued, it would tarnish Democrat Hubert Humphrey’s chances of winning the election. So Nixon had envoys from his campaign talk to South Vietnamese leaders to encourage them not to attend an upcoming peace talk in Paris. Nixon promised South Vietnam he would give them a better deal when he was president than LBJ could.</p><p dir="ltr">The CIA intercepted the communications and turned them over to President Johnson, who thus found out about this political maneuver to prolong the Vietnam war just three days before the 1968 election. He immediately phoned the Republican Senate leader Everett Dirksen. Here’s a transcript (<a href="https://soundcloud.com/jan-frel-1/14-lbj-everett-treason-clip">audio here</a>):</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr"><strong>President Johnson</strong>: Now, I can identify ‘em, because I know who’s doing this. I don’t want to identify it. I think it would shock America if a principal candidate [Nixon] was playing with a source like this [South Vietnam] on a matter this important.  I don’t want to do that.</p><p dir="ltr">But if they’re going to put this kind of stuff out, they ought to know that we know what they’re doing. I know who they’re talking to, and I know what they’re saying. ...Some of our folks, including some of the old China lobby, are going to the Vietnamese embassy and saying please notify the president [of South Vietnam] that if he'll hold out 'til November the second [US election day] they could get a better deal. Now, I'm reading their hand, Everett. I don't want to get this in the campaign. And they oughtn't to be doin' this. This is treason.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p dir="ltr"><strong>Sen. Dirksen</strong>: I know.</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">In subsequent tapes, Dirksen relates his efforts to get Nixon to pull back, and his lack of success. Unable to end the war, Vice President Hubert Humphrey lost the election to Nixon, and both Johnson and Dirksen took the secret of Nixon’s treason to their graves.</p><p dir="ltr">Those tapes were just released by the LBJ library three years ago, and the fact that there wasn’t a media firestorm is a true testament to how well the media protects the establishment parties… or to how incompetent the media has become after all the media consolidation of the past 30 years and the death of investigative journalism.   </p><p dir="ltr">South Vietnam took Nixon’s deal and boycotted the peace talks in 1968. The war continued, and Nixon won the White House thanks to it. And the war continued for four more years, and another 20,000 Americans and a million more Vietnamese died. </p><p dir="ltr">And Reagan’s treason --just like Nixon’s treason -- worked perfectly. The Iran hostage crisis continued and torpedoed Jimmy Carter's re-election hopes. And the same day Reagan took the oath of office -- almost to the minute -- the American hostages in Iran were released.</p><p dir="ltr">And in exchange for that, Reagan began selling the Iranians weapons and spare parts in 1981, and continued until he was busted for it in 1986; remember the "Iran Contra" scandal?</p><p dir="ltr">So twice in recent times, Republicans took the White House through naked treason.</p><p dir="ltr">Makes you wonder what they’re planning for next year…and what they’re willing to do to keep Tehran wrapped in a blanket of sanctions-silence.</p> Wed, 15 Jul 2015 08:10:00 -0700 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1039367 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics gop conservatives iran deal ronald reagan jimmy carter Bani-Sadr richard nixon How Bernie Sanders Could a Play a Role Like FDR Did http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/how-bernie-sanders-could-play-role-fdr-did <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">If elected president Bernie would do what FDR did in 1933 -- restore union rights, regulate Wall Street, and expand the social safety net. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1360880543102-1-0_2.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">The other night, I appeared on the Last Word with Lawrence O’Donnell to talk about Elizabeth Warren, the rise of progressives within the Democratic Party, and what this means for Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.</p><p dir="ltr">At one point in our discussion, the conversation turned to whether Bernie represents the closest thing to an Elizabeth Warren candidacy.<br /><br />I said he does, but I also pointed out that he has the potential to be so much more than just a fill-in the <a href="http://www.msnbc.com/the-last-word">blank progressive candidate</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">That’s right: Bernie Sanders could be the next FDR.<br /><br />Let me explain.</p><p dir="ltr">When FDR took over the White House in 1933, America was in dire straits.<br /><br />Two straight decades of Republican rule culminating in the Great Depression had decimated what remained of the middle-class.</p><p dir="ltr">The superrich dominated the political system, Wall Street was a giant deregulated casino, workers had no union rights, and unemployment was rampant.</p><p>And to make matters worse, many of the protections that we take for granted today, like, for example, Social Security, didn’t yet exist.</p><p dir="ltr">So FDR went ahead and oversaw what remains, with the probable exception of the Civil War, the most radical transformation of American democracy in our history: the New Deal.</p><p dir="ltr">He signed the Wagner Act, giving workers the right to collectively bargain with their bosses.<br /><br />He created the Works Progress Administration, or WPA, and the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC, which provided jobs for millions of unemployed Americans and turned the government into the employer of last resort.</p><p>He created the Securities and Exchange Commission and signed the Glass-Steagall Act, which clamped down on Wall Street gambling and made the banking industry boring, safe, and sustainable.</p><p dir="ltr">He also signed the Social Security Act which created the backbone of the modern day welfare state and, for the first time, made it possible for all Americans to retire with a pension.<br /><br />But the New Deal was bigger than just a collection of acts and agencies.</p><p dir="ltr">What made it so important in the long run was that it created the preconditions for an American middle-class.<br /><br />You, middle-classes are not “natural” in a deregulated capitalist economy.</p><p dir="ltr">They have to be created, created with regulations, unions, and smart trade policy.</p><p>In its natural state, capitalism is a lot like feudalism. There is a small sliver of superrich who rule over everyone else, followed by a slightly larger class of middle-managers and professionals. The vast majority of people, though, fall into the category of working poor, and they’re basically serfs who have no power whatsoever.</p><p dir="ltr">This is what American society looked like before FDR became president.</p><p dir="ltr">But after FDR’s time in office, American society was totally different.</p><p dir="ltr">Republicans and Democrats agreed to follow the basic policies set forth in the New Deal, and even expanded on them, as the Republican Party bragged about doing in its 1956 platform.<br /><br />They also supported sensible trade policies that prevented jobs from being shipped overseas in the name of corporate so-called “free trade.”</p><p>For decades this “New Deal consensus,” as historians call it, reigned supreme. <a href="http://forlocals.ufcw.org/2014/10/27/new-study-highlights-income-inequality-and-shrinking-middle-class/">And not coincidentally</a>, so too did the middle class. From the end of World War II until the 1980s, American society was remarkably equal. </p><p dir="ltr">And then Reagan became president, and he and his Republican allies began undoing the New Deal piece by piece.</p><p dir="ltr">They gutted union rights, slashed the social safety net, and deregulated big business.<br /><br />Bill Clinton got in on the act too when he repealed the Glass-Steagall Act and allowed Wall Street to mix with commercial banking, a decision that led directly to the crash of 2008.</p><p dir="ltr">As a result, America has been going backwards ever since 1981.</p><p dir="ltr">Our country now looks more like it did in 1933 than it did in 1973.</p><p dir="ltr">Yes, we have programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security that we didn’t have back then, but thanks to 30-plus years of Reaganomics, wealth inequality is once again soaring to record levels, union membership is the lowest it’s been in decades, and the superrich are sucking up all the <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/news/americas-incredible-shrinking-middle-class/">income gains made since the crash</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">Oh, and thanks to Citizens United, the Economic Royalists can buy any politician they want.</p><p dir="ltr">A lot of people understand what’s stake, but the man best equipped to handle this situation is Bernie Sanders.<br /><br />If elected president Bernie would do what FDR did in 1933 -- restore union rights, regulate Wall Street, and expand the social safety net.</p><p dir="ltr">And with a Democratic congress behind him, he would probably go even farther.</p><p dir="ltr">How do I know this?<br /><br />Because I know Bernie, and he’s spent his entire career fighting for the core principle behind the New Deal: creating the type of society in which the middle-class can flourish.<br /><br />This isn’t some radical socialist idea, either.</p><p dir="ltr">It’s what guided American society from the 1930s until the 1980s.<br /><br />It’s what works.<br /><br />And as President, Bernie Sanders would make it our number one priority once again.</p> Thu, 02 Jul 2015 07:42:00 -0700 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1032819 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics medicare part e insurance health care How Richard Nixon Destroyed American Manufacturing http://www.alternet.org/economy/how-richard-nixon-destroyed-american-manufacturing <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">He tried to sell so-called &quot;free trade&quot; to us as a way of ending Communism in China.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1357820661856-1-0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Back in 1963, the day before JFK was assassinated in Dallas, <a href="http://mtracy9.tripod.com/kennedy_nixon.htm">Richard Nixon was in that same city</a>, along with Don Kendall, the CEO of Pepsi. While some conspiracy theorists have suggested Nixon was there to set up the Kennedy killing, in fact this was really part of Nixon's assassination of our middle class.</p><p>Today, America lost around 14 factories. In fact, as Thomas Heffner notes over at <a href="http://economyincrisis.org/content/americas-economic-policies-destroying-us-from-within">Economy in Crisis</a>, we're losing 14 factories a day, every day, and have been for decades. And it all started with Nixon.</p><p>In 1959, as Vice President, Nixon visited Russia to push <a href="https://robintimweis.wordpress.com/2012/06/30/nixons-soviet-pepsi-stunt-9/">Pepsi</a>. We may never know what he got out of the deal personally, but he was there in Dallas in '63 for Pepsi, and then <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1972_Nixon_visit_to_China">went to China</a>, presumably in part on behalf of Pepsi, in 1972 as President.</p><p>Just as he started our failed "War on Drugs," Richard Nixon was also the godfather of our failed "Free Trade" policies, starting with China, which began sending us manufactured goods, while Pepsi was the first American product sold in China. While Nixon was probably paid handsomely by industry for this—we know of his bribe-taking from the dairy industry, for example—he tried to sell so-called "free trade" to us as a way of ending Communism in China.</p><p>As he wrote in his book <em>Seize the Moment</em> in 1992, "If we remain in China, we can play a critical role in helping the private economy gradually eclipse the state sector. In this respect, the most counterproductive thing we could do would be to revoke China's most-favored-nation trade status. ... If we want to have an impact on the changes occurring in China, we should not pull the plug on trade. Increasing economic progress will bring progress on human rights."</p><p>Thus began the destruction of American manufacturing. And ironically, once again the "evils" of China are being evoked to push more of our factories out of the United States via the TPP, as President Obama recently told us that if we don't "write the rules of trade" with Asia, "China will."</p><p>It was a bad idea in 1972 when Nixon first started all this in a big way, and it's a bad idea now. We've lost over 60,000 factories just since 2000. </p><p>Our $500 billion trade deficit is so bad that foreigners now own fully one-seventh of all assets in the United States and <a href="http://www.tradetreachery.com">we've lost two-thirds of the factories</a> we had when Nixon went to China.</p><p>Back in 1776, Adam Smith pointed out that what makes nations wealthy is manufacturing. We did manufacturing here in the US for about 200 years, and all that time the thing that kept manufacturing here in America was protectionist trade policies.</p><p>While we're backing out of Nixon's failed "War on Drugs," now is also a good time to end Nixon's insane trade deals that only move our jobs overseas and destroy our middle class.</p> Mon, 22 Jun 2015 10:58:00 -0700 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1038006 at http://www.alternet.org Economy Economy News & Politics richard nixon free trade China Why the Super-Rich Pay Taxes on a Much Tinier Fraction of Their Income Than You Do http://www.alternet.org/economy/why-super-rich-pay-taxes-much-tinier-fraction-their-income-you-do <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Why don&#039;t the rich pay their fair share in taxes?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/rich_2.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Why are our seniors paying higher taxes on their social security benefits than billionaires pay on stocks?</p><p>The IRS released a new report that reveals the staggering amount of money that the top one-thousandth of the 1% in the US is hoarding.</p><p>While the top earners in the bottom 50 percent of Americans only make $36,000 a year — the bottom earners in the top one-thousandth of the 1% "only make" more than $62 million a year.</p><p>Sixty-two million dollars per year is what it takes to be a top one-thousandth one percenter— and those are the poorest of the richest households; on average the top earners make more than $160 million a year.</p><p>That's 160 times richer than the average one percenter who only makes about $1.5 million.</p><p>That's an obscene concentration of wealth, but that's not the most outrageous part of the story, because those top earners are paying a lower tax rate than working-class Americans and retirees.</p><p>The highest tax rate on income taxes in 2014 was 39.6 percent for households earning more than $439,000 dollars - and the majority of US households paid an income tax rate of between 15 percent and 28 percent.</p><p>Those are households of plumbers, bus drivers, doctors and engineers— the average working Americans who create real wealth for the economy.</p><p>Meanwhile the banksters and vulture capitalists—the billionaires who make most of their income by moving money back and forth—pay a maximum rate of 20 percent of their earnings from the stock market.</p><p>How does this happen? Why did Mitt Romney pay a lower effective tax rate in 2011 than a waitress earning $2.13 an hour?</p><p>It started with the memo Lewis Powell wrote in 1971, just a few months before Nixon nominated him to the Supreme Court.</p><p>Powell wrote: "Business must learn the lesson, long ago learned by labor and other self-interest groups. This is the lesson that political power is necessary; that such power must be cultivated; and that when necessary, it must be used aggressively and with determination - without embarrassment and without the reluctance which has been so characteristic of American business."</p><p>And for the last 40 years - business has followed Powell's advice to a "T": by taking over our education system; purchasing the nation's newspapers, TV and radio stations; filling the courts with activist judges; and filling Washington with lobbyists and corporate-owned lawmakers.</p><p>And what have they done with that power?</p><p>They've rigged the system against the average American and in favor of themselves.</p><p>They've punched holes in our tax system so that seniors and working Americans can pay a higher tax rate than vulture capitalists and bankers.</p><p>Vice President Henry Wallace, in 1944 in the New York Times, warned about how corporatists might try to undermine US Democracy: "They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection."</p><p>And this IRS report shows that Wallace was prescient - that's exactly what's happened.</p><p>The vulture capitalists and bankers make money without creating wealth.</p><p>Adam Smith, back in 1776 in Wealth of Nations, said that real wealth is created for a nation by manufacturing. His simple example was a person adding labor to raw materials to create a new object with greater value - he used the example of a person taking a valueless tree branch and using their skill and labor to carve it into a valuable axe handle that then becomes part of the wealth of the nation for years.</p><p>That's what working Americans do every day - building cars; making consumer products; an engineer designing a bridge.</p><p>But the top earners in the United States? The Wall Street executives and vultures?</p><p>They don't make anything - they don't create wealth - and they actually can increase their profits - but not the wealth of our nation - by gutting a company, slashing employee benefits and decimating the workforce.</p><p>But after 40 years of corporate America infiltrating and subverting our democracy - they've grabbed so much power and influence over our politics that they've essentially written themselves out of our tax code.</p><p>So now - only the regular working people in the US - the doctors, plumbers, servers and small business owners - pay taxes in the US.</p><p>Regular people - like the seniors who have paid into social security all their lives only to have their benefits taxed at a higher rate than Mitt Romney's capital gains.</p><p>And that needs to change - we need to get money out of politics so that billionaires can't buy elected officials and get special tax rules written just for themselves.</p><p>We need to stop the superrich from punching more holes in our tax code and get them to pay their fair share.</p><p>If we want the US to be a strong and truly wealthy nation, we need to tax the people who strip money out of companies without creating wealth at least at the same rate as that of bus drivers and doctors.</p> Sun, 07 Jun 2015 10:19:00 -0700 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1037488 at http://www.alternet.org Economy Economy rich taxes super-rich hartmann wall street Another Amtrak Disaster Is Likely Unless We Fix Our Broken-Down Rail System http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/another-amtrak-disaster-likely-unless-we-fix-our-broken-down-rail-system <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Our railroads used to be the envy of the world, but now they&#039;re a joke - a joke that in some cases, leads to tragedy.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_187033478-edited_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>There used to be a time in this country when our elected representatives believed in the US and its government.</p><p>From Lincoln creating the land-grant universities, to FDR creating the Tennessee Valley Authority, to Eisenhower building the Interstate Highway System, previous leaders shared a common vision of the US that saw government and public works as a positive force in our society.</p><p>But then Reagan came along and the message was no longer "believe in the US and its government," it was "government is the problem, not the solution."</p><p>While countries like China, Japan and Germany are surging ahead with high-speed trains that are shattering records left and right, we're stuck here in the US with outdated technology and crumbling tracks.</p><p>The Acela train, which was supposed to be our country's answer to high-speed rail, <a href="http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/30351-it-s-time-to-invest-in-the-united-states-infrastructure" target="_blank">travels at an average speed of just 79 miles per hour</a> between Boston and Washington.</p><p>In comparison, high-speed trains travelling between Madrid and Barcelona <a href="http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/30351-it-s-time-to-invest-in-the-united-states-infrastructure" target="_blank">travel</a> at an average of around 150 miles per hour.</p><p>The Japanese, meanwhile, have just <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/05/13/1384445/-Amtrak-derailment-kills-six-as-Congress-argues-over-Amtrak-funding" target="_blank">developed</a> a passenger train that can travel at a whopping 374 miles per hour.</p><p>The Acela, of course, can travel as fast as 150 mph, but it's severely limited by the poor track quality along Amtrak's Northeast Corridor, which, <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/economy/2015/05/13/3658146/amtrak-deadly-derailment/" target="_blank">according some estimates</a>, will need something to the tune of $4.3 billion in repairs by 2019.</p><p>Our railroads used to be the envy of the world, but now they're a joke - a joke that in some cases, leads to tragedy.</p><p>Although Tuesday night's deadly Amtrak crash in Philadelphia looks like it was the result of human error, our aging and decrepit rail system only makes such disasters more likely.</p><p>In fact, according to the Federal Railroad Administration, the single biggest cause of train accidents between January 2000 and February 2015 was track failure.</p><p>The solution here is simple.</p><p>We need to what we did for hundreds of years before Reaganism infected our national discourse: seriously invest in our rail infrastructure.</p><p>Right now, <a href="http://blogs.worldwatch.org/sustainableprosperity/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Natl-Rail-Infrastructure-Invest.jpg" target="_blank">we lag way behind</a> countries like China, Switzerland and Austria.</p><p>That needs to change, and we should start by doubling our efforts to boost Amtrak and its Northeast Corridor, which is <a href="http://www.cnbc.com/id/101838531" target="_blank">so important to our economy</a> that if it stopped altogether, the country would lose almost $100 million every single day.</p><p>The problem, though, is that Republicans don't give a rat's patooey about improving our rail system - at least so long as it's not owned by some billionaire.</p><p>Right now, they're actually trying cut Amtrak funding by around 20 percent, from $1.4 billion to $1.13 billion, and some have actually <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2015/05/13/1384445/-Amtrak-derailment-kills-six-as-Congress-argues-over-Amtrak-funding" target="_blank">called for the privatization</a> of the Northeast Corridor.</p><p>The way they see it, since Amtrak isn't "making a profit," it's a waste of money.</p><p>This is a perfect example of Reaganism run amok. No transportation system "makes a profit"- our highways certainly don't - because that's not the point.</p><p>The point of having a national highway system or national rail system isn't to make money - it's to provide a service to the public and to provide a backbone for the economy to grow and prosper.</p><p>Infrastructure is just the soil in which business roots itself, and government spending is the best fertilizer.</p><p>That's what Republicans don't get about Amtrak.</p><p>Sometimes, throwing money at a problem is the way to fix it.</p><p>When your tracks are crumbling, your bridges are falling apart and your trains are dinosaurs from the 1970s, no magical privatization scheme is going to solve the problem.</p><p>What's going to get the job done is a dose of good old fashioned government spending - the kind we used to build this country from the founding of the Republic up until the Reagan era.</p><p>Government is the solution, not the problem.</p><p>Hopefully our lawmakers will come to realize that before another tragic train accident exposes our rail system for the embarrassment that it is.</p> Thu, 14 May 2015 11:31:00 -0700 Thom Hartmann, AlterNet 1036360 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics amtrak rail system high speed rail infrastructure